I was driving home this evening. It had been a hard day, and I was trying to keep what few wits I possess about me.
I looked at a car srtopped beside me at the lights: was it a Ford or a Holden? Couldn't decide. It might have been a Mitsubishi. It pulled away ahead of me: it was a VW Passat, which means it could have also been a Skoda. Sigh. Gone are the day when you you could identify a car by its shape. Whoops! What that our VW/Holden/Ford/Mitsubishi/Skoda owner has in his window? A sticker! Saying... "I Love My Wife".
Oh dear. I should take a note of the number plate. Call my cynical, but I have this depressing feeling that the only men who feel the need to have a sticker in their rear window proclaiming their love for their wives will fall in to one of four camps:
1: They'll be serial killers.
2: They'll be wife-beaters.
3: They'll be christians - and therefore legally insane.
4: They'll be hen-pecked, brow-beaten, submissive, and sit down when they piss.
Why? Well, it's the public statement. Sorry all you serial killing, wife-beating, christian milquetoasts: but a man who really loves his wife is quite content for her to know it, and for his kids to take comfort in it. He doesn't really need to boost his own self-image by shoving strangers' noses in his emotional life. Men who sit in numbers 1, 2,or 3 are trying to disguise their contempt for their wives in particular, and women in general. Chaps who are settled in category four are in fear of their wives, and are grateful when she allows him to have sex on his birthday. I know this, because I used to live there. No more.
LISTENING TO: Jimi Hendrix, "Are You Experienced?" My brain is leaking frommy eardrums.
READING: A Batman comic.
WORD OF THE DAY: Hypocrite. Like the men who drive around with stickers in their windows.
MORE MOANA! Yay!
It vibrates. We’ve put that feature to good use a couple of times, too.
The phone rang. It's a thing that phones do, and I answered it. It was my Mum, wanting to know if I could take her into town later that morning.
“Sorry, Mum. I don't know if I can. Chutty's got the ute, he's off to Kaweka this morning on a job, and I think young Russco's going to be off in the Mitsi to footy.” I said.
“OK love,” she replied. “It's just that I've got to get to St John's to do some pledging.”
Mum goes to St. John's every second Saturday, and polishes the pews and arranges the flowers. She calls it doing her pledging, because she uses half a can of lemon Pledge every time she does it. It's no wonder people are staying away from Church these days.
“Have you seen the doctor about your angina, Mum?”
“I'm not about to let that doctor start fossicking around down there, thank you very much. And don't you dare talk about my, my, parts like that,” she said, sounding like a pissed-off wasp, then hung up.
I put the receiver back on the hook, feeling flat. Mum takes umbrage at the slightest thing, and I'm in the dog-box until she forgets about it. Fortunately, that takes about seven minutes these days. I can't help but think that – apart from her heart problems – she's starting to shows signs of Alzheimer's.
“Mum?” said my daughter. “Didn't you just say that Russco'd be taking the Mitsi to footy?”
“Yes,” I said, thinking about Mum.
“But weren't we talking about how they've got a bye this week?”
“Shit,” I said. “And here's me thinking your Nan's got old-timers' disease. Oh – and don't talk to her about her angina, 'cause she thinks you're talking about her vagina.”
The door from the hallways opened while I was saying this, and Russel came in, scratching his bum. “Whose vagina, Mum?” he said.
“Your Nan's,” I told him. He went pale, said there were other mental images he'd rather have, then asked about breakfast. At least that was something I'd got right that morning.
“Bacon's just gone under the grill. Be another five minutes or so.” I said, looking under the grill. “Give your father a call, would you, Useless?” Russco went to the kitchen door, opened it and bellowed for his Dad. I hear a “Righto, son” coming from the general direction of the workshop, and put the eggs on.
Breakfast was its usual chaos. Tea and toast and cereal and eggs everywhere, and seven different conversations going at once. I sat there and watched the three of them, and felt the lump in my throat thickening. I can't imagine how I got so lucky. And how lucky I was right now. Or at least I was hoping that I was lucky right now. Things could go all to custard if I wasn't careful. It's nice to get the four of us around the table: Chutty, Treen, Useless, and me. I'm Moana, daughter of Hinemoa and Colin Treloar. You'll gedt to meet my Mum soon.
Chutty went back out to play around with the Caterpillar's hydraulics after breakfast, so I got Useless to help me with the dishes. We worked in silence for a couple of minutes, me washing, him drying. I felt him standing behind me, and looking hard at me.
“All right, Mum. Give. What's up?” He's a month off sixteen, and he sounds so much like a man at times. As to the up-ness of what, it's something I don't want to talk about right now. Not 'til I've spoken to Chutty, anyway. I'll do it this afternoon. Promise.
“Eh? What's up? With me? Nothing.” I'm nothing if not direct.
“Treen!” he shouted. “Can you come in here a minute?”
“Coming,” she shouted from the bathroom. “I'm just cleaning my teeth.”
“Wiping her bum, more like,” muttered Useless.
“Now, now,” I said. “If she says she's cleaning her teeth, then she's cleaning -” I heard the toilet flush. “Then she's probably wiping her bum.” I laughed as I finished the sentence. Treen came in to the slop room, asking “What's up, Russco?” Sometimes my family has too many nicknames. Russco, Useless, Treen, Curls, Chutty. And Chutty's been in the habit of not only saying “Quiet, woman,” to me when we're arguing, but calling me Quiet Woman, too. He reckons it's like the Aussies. They'll call a red-haired man “Blue”, and a short man they'll immediately call “Lofty”. So he calls me Quiet Woman. What that says about his opinion of me I – we'll, I'll just keep quiet about it.
“Time to play tag team, Treen,” says Russel. “Something's up with Mum, and she isn't saying.” Sometimes I regret teaching them that it's always better to talk about things than it is to bottle them up. My Dad was one of those men who kept a stiff upper lip, and never complained. He was riddled with cancer before he first complained of having a slight belly-ache. The Doctor, whose name, for heaven's sake, is Know, reckons he would have been all right if he'd started grizzling when the pain first hit. Anyway, I could see there was no way I was going to bluff my way out of this, so I took a deep breath, checked to make sure Chutty was in the workshop, and owned up.
“All right, you two,” I said. “I was going to tell your father first, but I haven't found the right moment yet.”