The cricket pitch was mowed on a part of our property, because we had the largest place in the area. My brother and I would mow the back part of the property by hand, and the 22 yards in the middle just a little bit closer to the ground than the other grass.
The boundaries would be the fence along the creek on the off-side, the blackberry brambles on the on side, and the back-street fence which was long over the bowler’s head. The “wickey” was the fence behind the batter’s end. This barrier fenced off either a vegetable garden, or a duck yard. It changed as we grew up. If you nicked it and it went on the full into the fence, you were out. The creek side fence was six and out, the other two sides were not out, but you had to help find the ball if it got lost.
The back streets made up of two cross cul-de-sac streets which were a new development after the Fergusons sold their paddocks and the houses built. Immigrants were amongst the people who occupied the new houses there. The kids of the neighbourhood were diverse in nationalities which included Scottish, Maltese, and Sri Lankan.
Cricket in our back yard was one which united the kids of the neighbourhood. It didn’t matter where you came from, or how old you were, as long as you could catch a ball or hold a bat, you were welcome. On a Sunday afternoon, the men of the neighbourhood would put down their beers and join us. Being a little under the weather, they were the source of laughter and mirth as one father would try to bowl, with a cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth falling as he released the ball, which then went bouncing in the general direction of the wickets. It was great to be in bat at that time, as the balls were dispatched to various corners of the ground. The challenge was to lose the ball long enough for the men to regather their beers and retire to one or other of the garages, leaving us kids to get on with our game.
Derek was a good batsman. He was built like David Boon; very solid with wide shoulders. He and his brother Clifford who was lanky and thin, were Sri Lankan and always envied for their skills with the bat or ball. Jamie was the eldest of the Scottish kids. He was the same age as my younger brother and came with his own pads in Summer, or with his own football during the Winter when the pitch was transformed to a footy pitch of many codes. Jamie was fearless and would not hesitate to jump the fence to follow the ball down the creek, or chase it into the blackberries, not fearing the thorns as they scratched his legs.
The game was often called off after someone looking for the ball amongst the blackberries came across a snake, or the blackberries were in season, and we all decided to eat them rather than slog a cherry ball all around the yard. The game was ended for the day when the lights came on in the back streets, which meant that all the kids were due inside. Last over would be called and the one in bat was declared the winner for the day, regardless of the scores kept by Clifford, the mathematician in our midst.
Girls were allowed to play too; as long as they didn’t play like girls. No such thing as being politically correct or inclusive back then. Tanya could bat but really couldn’t throw and Mellissa could play like a boy until she turned around fourteen then lost interest in cricket, choosing the swimming pool instead. Little kids of all ages and sexes dotted the infield, and it was up to the bigger kids to look out for them. We would pick them up if they got knocked over, wipe their noses, and wash off their apples, but if they cried, the game would be postponed as they would be taken home.
Cricket was not the only thing that united the families. There were bar b ques for everyone’s birthdays. These would be a feast of the nations, with the best Pastizzies, curries and baked goods and salads. It was at one such BBQ that marinates for meat and flavoured sausages were introduced. My father, an Englishman, who claimed Aussie heritage, was shocked when someone suggested marinating meat, until he tasted it.
Bonfire night was an annual event also held in our backyard. For weeks beforehand, nothing got burnt in the incinerator, or thrown in the garbage, or taken to the tip without the scrutiny of the neighbourhood kids. We deemed that anything being thrown out was suitable to go onto the bonfire on the corner of our soccer pitch. It would grow as wood of all sizes from a plank to a stump were piled on. The pile kept together by discarded sheets; we would burrow into the bottom of it to make our cubby house until that cold night in June when we could light the fire. The blaze would light up the yard for the night, enough for us to see when lighting our Catherine wheels or rockets, and adults sat in garden chairs swigging beer, supervising the little kids, keeping them far enough back to not get burned.
Each family would celebrate Christmas apart, but afterwards we would compare presents and have turns at using each other’s gifts. Then New Years Eve would provide another excuse for the adults to get together for a booze-up. At midnight we would all be gathered at the Scottish family’s house and after Auld Lang Syne, the sing song was led by the scots and their friends, while we kids would go around the back streets banging on saucepans.
People move on. Brad and his family moved up the hill, beyond the Czech cucumber farm where I worked after school and during the summer. I would get five dollars for an afternoon’s work, plus a cucumber in my pocket for my mum and one in my hand to eat on the way home. When I had turtles, I used to take them to the Chinaman’s market garden to show them and get a lot of worms to feed them with. It was the Chinamen who taught us how to catch carp from the creek, in a more efficient way than a bobby-pin on a string.
After Brad moved, there were a number of sales in the back streets. High school being over, we older boys all got jobs and cars and the younger ones weren’t really into playing cricket. My father became an honourary Pop, Papa, and my mother a Nonna to many of thee little kids in the back streets. But with all of their own kids grown and moved on, it was time for my parents to subdivide the land and retire, moving to the south coast.
That was 40 years ago. I have never found such a bond between neighbours like my childhood home again. I miss the innocence of youth.
It was an unassuming door in an unassuming building but what went on inside was fascinating, even amazing. The door tinkled when opened and tinkled till closed.
Once inside, you had to adjust your eyes to see through the gloom and dust, to make your way past the piles of hessian bags and stands to the curtain made of pasta strings at the rear. It was clean back here, lighter and on the floor of polished oak, one could see all manner of creatures, sitting in a circle, playing cards with a dealer who really was a snake.
From Nabakov’s Despair, a minor character, now given a life.
Word count 100
Miss Nataša Blazek posed for Martin Palacek in the white rose garden. Martin wasn’t a known artist yet, but he had ambitions, and Nataša had plans to snare herself a husband. That morning she pushed her lilac dress off her shoulders and saw in the mirror how the dress accentuated her curves.
As Nataša sat by the garden, insects showed their curiosity at the intrusion. They crawled around her seat and buzzed around her coiffured hair. Nataša was glad she brought her fan. She swooshed them from her hair and squashed them on her seat, while smiling pretty for Martin.
The chocolate shop was hidden in an alley. It advertised in newspapers and men’s magazines so fathers and grandfathers would spend a little to spoil the child without a frowning female’s disapproval.
Chocolates were displayed in barrels behind glass and on the shelf behind the attendant’s head; their bright coloured wraps gleamed under the orange light. They were scooped and weighed, set in a box with a ribbon, awaiting an astonished child to untie.
Grandfather presented me with such a gift, which I duly shared with him, smiling on the swing under the apple tree, where grandma could not see.
Note. I am writing 40 one hundred word short stories using the minor characters of Nabakov’s Despair. I have 3 days till submission is due. This was warm up for them.
We battle our way on these tracks we call roads, following all the other sheep going who know where to do who knows what, until we use the same tracks to take us back to get fed and rested before we all do it again. We live in concrete towers, in boxes within them, we work to earn money for the right to live there and eat processed so call food with plastic knives and forks, and spoon or shovel dessert into the gaping hole in the front of our heads. We wear coverings called clothes and shoes from people who are clever enough to get us to part with our earnings for pieces of material held together by the flimsiest of threads.
Those pesky Ibises have come around again, making a mess of our manicured lawns and concrete parks. The try to deprocess the food so they can digest what goodness if any that has been left behind. Get out! We shout. Go back to where you came from. But, they say, this is where we came from before you knocked down out trees, filled in our lakes and built airports so you can fly free like we once did.
We don’t like where this river is going. The river doesn’t like where you are going. Fill it in and it will flood. Then the people complain. Their habitats are wet. Go live on the plain says the river. This mountain is in the way, lets blow it up. But that’s not what God meant when he said to move mountains. You change the water courses, you level the mountains, you build your palaces and expect nature to comply. Its not gonna happen.
Ghost towns pop up where resources have dried. Land is reclaimed and rivers gouge out the paths they were originally intended to take. Bend with the land or it will beat you down. Bend with the land and it will feed you, shelter you and care for you like its own babies. But cross it, continue to cross it and ask for devastation. Man is not going to win this war.
It’s time. Time to reconnect with the land. Time to listen and no longer demand. Time to give back and not just take, until your back aches. It’s time to plant and to grow, then later reap the harvest that was meant for you. It’s time to let the animals run free. To allow them to frolic and just let them be. It’s time to listen to what the land needs. It’s been shouting for years, it pleads, and it bleeds.
Will we shut up and let nature have it’s say? Before it destroys us all and calls it a day. We can blow bits off it and leave it barren and bare. We up and move house to another part where the leaves still grow and the meat is plentiful, before we destroy that too and then we may know.
The taxi was finally here. My bags are packed. I know I am leaving a lot behind, but I need to get out. I can’t live with the violence anymore. The coming home late and pissed, then the shouting, things getting broken. The children asleep, or pretending to be, upstairs. I can’t handle them being afraid anymore.
So I am leaving. He has told me many a time to leave. He and the children will be better off without me if I was to continue drinking. I left a note. First stop Central, then detox. I WILL be well again.
Domestic violence is never ok. I wanted to write a story that reflected that, but I wanted to highlight the mostly hidden domestic violence scenario of the man being abused, and the woman being the abuser. This does not discount that mostly it is women who are on the receiving end of that abuse.