:: Friday, March 30, 2007
Bucket of Piss
:: Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Maggie is worried about Olivia - so far away.
'Don't you get scared when Andy is away?' she asks. Olivia is always upfront with Maggie. There's no point not being.
'A bit,' she admits, 'but I have a plan.'
'A plan? What?' asks Maggie.
'I keep a bucket beside the bed,' admits Olivia, 'that I wee into if I need to go in the middle of the night.'
The toilet is a long way away, especially in the night. Downstairs and right to the back of the house. It's practically outside.
'So you plan to throw the piss at any intruders, do you?' guesses Maggie, laughing.
'Pretty much,' says Olivia. She has strong hopes for its success. Surely being soaked in someone else's urine would at least slow down a would-be burglar, murder, rapist? Perhaps even make them so revolted that they would make good their escape.
If not, Olivia still estimates that it would give her one or even two precious minutes. She's rehersed it over and over in her head on sleepless, Andy-less nights -
run to M's room and scoop her up.
Out the window, across the roof
a jump (biggish one, but not impossible, especially with the adrenilin the circumstances would inevitably provide) across to the neighbours' house
down to the ground.
A brave plan. But not an impossible one.
:: mcb 12:04 PM [+] ::
:: Sunday, March 11, 2007
They spend a day in the Botanical Gardens. The sky is blue. There are leaves, both falling and fallen. What Olivia notices though is all the memorial chairs. They are just normal park benches, but seemingly every one has been inlaid with a copper plate, etched with the name of a deceased person, their birth and death dates open and closed brackets below.
'What will they do if they run out of chairs?' she asks Andy. Andy doesn't want to respond, she can tell. He thinks it's one of her weird tangents that he tries to follow her down and gets lost. He's probably right, she thinks.
'The family pays for the chair,' he explains eventually. 'If they didn't, there would be no chair.'
'But when will it stop?' she asks. 'People keep dying, you know. And everyone loves a park. Who wouldn't want to have a chair with their name on it?' Even though, she thinks to herself, it does make you feel a little uncomfortable about sitting on them. Like they're permanently reserved.
'Eventually the park will be entirely benches. They'll have to cut down the trees to fit them in. ANd then you won't be able to walk around without stumbling over the memories of people, sitting and gazing.'
She can see that she's losing Andy, so she does her old trick of flipping things around, making it funny.
'Why should chairs be memorials for people anyway?' she says. 'How about people being memorials for chairs?' Andy grins. He likes this.
'Good idea,' he says. 'They could plaster little plaques onto their foreheads. In memory of a terrific bench down by the ocean. Sadly missed.'
:: mcb 9:37 PM [+] ::
Bananas in Pyjamas
:: Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Olivia sometimes turned on the television in the afternoon to the children's shows. B lay on her mat, staring at the venitian blinds, so it was definitely more for Olivia's benenfit than hers. Often it seemed to be 'Bananas in Pyjamas.' Olivia watched it, thinking about how it seemed that the bananas had been reinvented since she was a child. The next time she called Steph she told her about it.
'When I was little I always thought the bananas were kind of creepy,' she said.
'Why?' asked Steph.
'Just that whole stalking of the teddy bears, I guess,' said Olivia. 'Trying to catch them unawares. I always wondered what they would do with the banans once they caught them. It's weird.'
'I guess so,' said Steph, but Olivia could tell she didn't really see what Olivia meant. It was hard to explain - the uncomfortable feeling she had always had about the Bananas as a child. And whose pyjamas were they in? And why were they wearing them? She had always suspected that they weren't really bananas at all. They were something disguising themselves as something bland, easily digestible, so that the teddy bears would be lulled into a false sense of security.
:: mcb 10:22 AM [+] ::
Andy goes through an intensely annoying period of 'living every day like it was his last.' It seemed to involve getting up early, running around the park until he came home, streaming with fluid.
'We are supposed to be 90 percent water, you know, Andy,' Olivia had warned him. 'Maybe try to keep it that way.'
He caught up with people he hadn't seen for years
:: mcb 8:40 PM [+] ::
Sometimes when Olivia looked at Andy she was struck by how different he looked now. Now that he had a 'real' job. Now that he was no longer just making money for their next overseas adventure. It wasn't just the suit either. Something had shifted about his face. Something had been folded up and packed away. It was like a protective covering had been shaken out over the top.
'You look different,' she told him, one morning.
'Older,' he said, checking for clumps of hair he'd missed.
'No, just different. I miss your old face.'
He contorted his features.
'It's still here,' he said.
'No, it's not,' she said. 'ALthough it might be there, deep down. It's too important to see me now, your face. I feel like I should make an appointment to see it. Or send it an email.'
Tell you what,' said Andy, colonging, 'Have your face call my face and we'll see if we can arrange a meeting.'
'Exactly,' said Olivia.
:: mcb 12:27 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, February 23, 2007
Olivia has friends called Jane and William. Jane has a baby the same age as B.
Olivia lived for some time as a student in a London squat. There were a number of travellers who stayed there, included Marguerite. It is because of the travellers that Olivia became interested in the idea of travel.
It was through Marguerite that she met Andy - he was M's boyfriend originally.
I think perhaps M kills herself after Olivia and Andy get together (or maybe after they get married?). Or perhaps it's just that the friendship dies, so when Olivia talks about leaving London to escape the ghosts this is what she's referring to.
Olivia and Andy do a lot of travel together, putting off settling down. They in fact make a pact that they will never do work other than to make money for the next trip. Andy is from a conservative background, but he is the most veherement about it.
Then he lands a role with a company (after they find out they're having a baby? Or before?) and starts making lots of money. It's not long before the Andy who stayed in the squat with Olivia seems like a different person. Not to mention the Olivia who stayed there. So these are other ghosts - ghosts of former selves.
(Olivia has an idea about setting up 'parasite bars'- temporary places set up within other buildings that you would only know about by word of mouth. And then the next night they would move on.)
squatter as infestation - Olivia grows to dislike the constant shifting nature of the squat - you are never sure who you'll find scuttling about in the kitchen, late at night, leaving a mess in the bathroom etc.
When she mentions to (whoever it is) that she is leaving London to escape all the ghosts (maybe this is how she refers to the seemingly invisible people that drift through her house?) the person misunderstands and tells her that of course there are ghosts in Australia - and they are young ones, angry, more vitriolic, there against their will.
:: mcb 12:13 PM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, February 20, 2007
They could've chosen something fully renovated, of course. Andy's company was happy to pay the rent on a number of extravagant places in the area that Olivia had decided would be good to live. (Her choice of suburb had been based on such varied sources as Home and Away and Google Earth. Somewhere not too far for Andy's work. Not too far from the city. But close to the beach. Why else would you move to Australia if not to live near the beach, after all?)
The HR head sent a number of web references for houses on for them to peruse. At first they were dazzled by the gleaming chrome, the polished floorboards, the old facades giving way to a completely new, ultra-modern building behind - an airy shout of glass and lofty roofs. But after examining them for a while Olivia started to feel queasy. It seemed deceitful - like wise and weathered faces on nubile bodies. And they all looked the same after a while.
So Olivia did her own research and found an unrenovated house in the same suburb. It was close to a park and the 'village' (which sounded nice, even if it wasn't the sort of village Olivia couldn't help picturing). The thing that really sold it to her was the street name: Spray Street. 'Can't you feel the sand between your toes?' she said enthusiastically, as she showed the images to Andy.
Andy wasn't sure at first. 'It looks decrepit,' he said. 'And it's way less than the company is prepared to pay.'
'It's been allowed to age gracefully,' insisted Olivia. Somehow, that seemed important. Buildings, Olivia decided, needed to be able to do this. It gave them inner grace, just as it did with people.
'Could be cold in winter,' warned Andy. 'Which is ok for me because I'll be away for most of it. Wouldn't you prefer something with central heating? For the baby?'
But Olivia was resolute.
'We'll rug up,' she said. 'We'll fix it up. The way we like it. Before someone else gets it and starts turning it into a greenhouse like all the rest of them.' She felt herself almost becoming teary at the thought of rescuing this poor, noble house.
'Fine,' said Andy. 'I'll let HR know. They'll think we're odd, though, I'm sure of it.'
'We are odd,' said Olivia, giving him a hug. 'That's what I love about us.'
:: mcb 11:41 AM [+] ::
Olivia has trouble remembering the kids that she and B meet in the park. It's not that Australian children look so very different to English ones, either, although in this suburb they share a similar colour palette. At home she never had this trouble. In fact, she excelled at it, remembering that Ruby had the teething blush and Sebastian had the gleaming white front teeth ('all the better to bite you with, lady!').
But here, they all blend. At first she makes valiant efforts to remember them 'Wow, hasn't Isabelle grown!' and 'I think I saw you and Oliver in the park yesterday,' only to be met with frowns and displeasure. It's never said but she knows that they think she feels above them. It's the accent. It says 'transient.' It says 'this place is ridiculously cheap for us and our English pounds.' Olivia finds herself dragging B to the local park at odd times of the day, purely to avoid them all and their pinched, toothless smiles.
:: mcb 6:26 PM [+] ::
Infested Part 2
:: Monday, February 19, 2007
And then she discovers the lice. In fact, it's Andy who first spots them, when they're washing B together in the sink. 'Is that something moving?' he asks, and Olivia is ready to mock and deride - he's always finding things that don't exist - but then, she sees it too. Where have they come from? The playpark? Someone on the park? Gymbaroo? She can't help but feel under siege - there seem to be so many bugs and creepy crawlies around and now, even on, her family that she feels that it's deliberate.
Even after she has moussed and combed and rinsed and repeated (not to mention stripped the beds, washed all the towels, washed all their clothes) she still feels them. It's as if her scalp remembers the sensation of the critters moving across it. B scratches her head frequently too. Her scalp hasn't forgotten either.
:: mcb 6:21 PM [+] ::
It's not long before she feels that they have been infested, outside and in. Firstly, it's the cockroaches that she discovers when she staggers downstairs to use the bathroom in the 'wee small hours'and puts her hand right on one near the light switch. She's horrified by the size of it - it seems so much more monstrously large than the ones she remembers from back home. She finds the spray and kills it. As she watches it writhe she feels the usual pang of guilt that she gets whenever she kills something. It is such an unfair fight. Once she would've let it go and would've steeled herself to co-exist with the bugs. But motherhood has turned her into a killer. She pictures herself looking into B's crib and seeing a cockroach scurrying out from the bunny rug.
She feels something else as she watches the bug die. Later she realises this is the first time she felt horror in the house. The cockroach is so large! Nightmarishly so. She tells herself this must be an abberation - some kind of superhero of the cockie world. Or perhaps it's a trick of her eyes, blurred by sleep. But she sees another one the next evening, while she's cleaning her teeth, just as large. It peeps out from behind the cup she's been keeping their toothbrushes in, waving its feelers around. She can't help but detect a certain air of 'fuck you' about its movements. Especially its proximity to the toothbrushes, and the fact that it waited until she'd commenced brushing before it appeared.
Then, a week later, again in the bathroom (so moist, so rickety that it's an open door to any creature that desires shelter) she sees something else scuttle by. It's very large and very quick. She tells herself it's just an extremely large cockroach although her brain is screaming 'Mouse! Mouse!' It almost makes her laugh, afterwards, that it seemed preferable to have extremely large cockroaches in her house than mice.
Of course, it is a mouse. Like the cockroach, it makes its presence clear.
:: mcb 8:51 PM [+] ::