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First published in ISLAND magazine Issue 87 Spring 2001


She wakes to his call.  Light barely comes through the window. The child gets up and sits on her chest. He jumps up and down on it a few times, giggling at the sound of her pushed out breath, and then rolls off the bed and takes off up the stairs. She sighs. She covers her eyes with the back of her palm. She is trying to remember the dream she just woke from. Her dreams are different from her days. She is usually back at school. She is young and dancing and laughing and she is not a mother. 


‘OK,’ she calls back.

She hears the tune to Noddy start on the telly. She sighs and lurches out of bed, pulls on her dressing gown and walks up the stairs. 

She is young and gorgeous and is dancing and laughing so loudly, and everyone is smiling at her and she can go where she wants and do anything and there is no one to whom it would it matter.

‘Mum, why are Big Bird’s feet so big?’

She tries to open her eyes and is helped by a pair of gooey fingers that pry them open for her.

She smiles through slits.

‘Sorry, sweetheart.’

She can recognise his face beneath the foundation of Vegemite.

He points at the telly. ‘Big Bird,’ he reminds her. 

‘Mmmm.’ His hands are on his hips. A brief flash of his father. ‘OK. Um, his feet are big otherwise the rest of him would fall over, wouldn’t it?’

He thinks for a minute, hands still on his hips, then they slide off and he smiles and resumes his place two centimetres away from the telly.

‘You’re too close, darling,’ she says. He ignores her. She doesn’t say it again. Instead she makes coffee and watches the hands on the kitchen clock tick very slowly.

He is eating peanut butter sandwiches. She is eating his discarded crusts and watching Oprah. 

‘When’s Daddy going to be home, Mum?’

Some American has lost weight, left her husband, or been through therapy and the whole world is clapping. Oprah nods her head in approval and her hair shines.


Guilt. ‘Sorry. I’m not sure when sweetheart, probably late again I’d say.’

He tries to scowl.

She washes nappies, rinsing off the digested meals she’s made him and she listens to the rumbling drum of him riding his trike up and down the deck. Ba-dum ba-dum ba-dum. He is giggling and she smiles. She remembers the sound of her own giggling. 

Just then music comes from the telly and her body starts to sway. She turns off the tap so she can hear it better. She lifts her arms in the air and spins. Drops of water spray out from her hands and decorates the walls. She runs into the lounge and feels her body move. She is alive. She is young. Her arms and legs splay and swirl, and she smiles, she laughs. She remembers. Until she hears her title called.

Her dance slows. He calls again. She stops.

The music’s been replaced by an add for Weight Watchers. 


She steps out onto the deck. She sees him grinning, peddling, and she grins back. It is then that she sees he is riding through a fresh patch of his own faeces, which sits caked to the wheel of the trike and spread from one side of the deck to the other. 

She looks. Then she goes inside to get a cloth and a bucket of water.

She scrubs at the deck, eyes half closed, and she cannot even be bothered screaming. Tonight will be her time. Tonight, while the child breathes deeply beside her, she will drift and she will dream. She will be young and free. She will be dancing, her body moving in endless patterns and her laugh will be deafening in her own ears. 

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