Sport 34: Winter 2006
I went out to Butterfly Creek with a vanload of boys. We were anarchists.
On the way we swam at Eastbourne. The boys were playfighting in the water, like they hadn't touched another human being in years.
We ate fish 'n' chips in a park. In that park, kids always hit cricket balls into the picture windows of houses on the other side of the road.
The path over the hill was dry and covered in dust. I hung back to go for a piss. The bushes were too short to hide behind, so I went on the path. The dust rose and settled.
It was almost dark in the picnic ground. I had a headlamp but the others didn't. They collected branches by feel.
We sat around a fire. Clearly we had too much wood. I was scared that the boys would talk about politics all night. Instead they talked about girls. I felt honoured that my presence didn't hamper them. One of the Simons was in love with an American ukulele player. Unfortunately she had a boyfriend, and also, she was only eighteen. Simon said, 'I'm going to be a rich businessman and every few years I'm going to get another eighteen-year-old girlfriend.'
'That sounds like a good plan,' I said.
We heard, but didn't see, the fireworks over the city. It was Chinese New Year. We kept hearing splashing noises from the dark swimming hole. It was either ducks or eels.
Urs and the other Simon kept making jokes about back doors. Urs asked Simon, 'How many children do you have?' and Simon said, 'One, and a peanut.
Well, it's about as big as a peanut.' We slept in the open. Sandflies were biting but it was too hot to cover your face. In the morning we woke feeling nipped and swollen. Already people with dogs were passing through.
I slunk into the swimming hole slowly. The boys all bellyflopped. We page 141saw two eels further down the creek, pushing against the current.
Going back over the hill, they started talking about whether oil was going to run out or not, and what was going to happen. We kept passing families, the older kids running in front, the younger ones dragged uphill by parents.
On the roadside Jonah found a good casserole dish and a couple of tins of paint.
When I got home my flatmates thought I had had a one night stand. They kept asking me all the details. I tried to tell them what had really happened, but they refused to believe me.
Joe says, 'The evolution of separate sexes seems to coincide with the evolution of the ability to walk, swim, or fly.' Sooner or later, a duck, a fish, and small portions of a pig arrive on the table. He continues, 'Sexual reproduction also tends to be linked to having paired limbs.' 'Why?' asks Maria. 'So you can open your legs?' She is pregnant, and paranoid about listeria in the meat. The fish looks at us cloudily throughout the meal, cloaked in what appears to be Watties' mixed vegetables. Its teeth are sliding out of its jaw.
The seventies sucked, says Sam. Except for the pastries at the Paekakariki tearooms. And you could walk along the railway lines and collect glass bottles. You could get eight cents a bottle, and four sherbet fizzers for a cent.
The Paekakariki chemist, says Sam, had the most unique organising system in the world. It worked on the principle that if you put one of everything everywhere, people would be bound to find what they wanted. There were no two items the same in any one place. The man behind the counter was skinny and cadaverous. People said he had page 142been training to be a doctor, but failed his final exams. He can't have had much business, Sam reckons, because he would always tell people the best cure was seawater.
He was the king of the fly swat and the lord of the vegetable patch. He was the Four Square man and for the rest of his life he was losing pencils behind his ears. You would see him in a holey singlet on the front porch. Or asleep in front of the television. In his time people played the piano at parties. Everybody wore their hair in little waves across their foreheads.
Sure, sometimes he would get too drunk and be unable to open his own front door. Sure, he wasn't polite about his neighbours. But he is up in the sky now, making sure the paint rusts off old signs, and that the beanpoles in the back yard rot and fall over. Keeping an eye on the real estate agents. Perfecting the twilight chirp of a cricket.
The wind likes to say to people, over and over, 'Who are you?'
The people say, 'Piss off, we don't need to know that yet.'
All the same, they are disconcerted, walking down the street with the wind in their pockets.
The cold is a bastard. The wind is a worse one. You look around everywhere for things you can chop up. Go into the town belt and fill plastic bags with pine cones. In the twilight the trees turn folktale on you, you think up all kinds of stories. Doomed love. The sunsets are spectacular. You've dropped something somewhere, and by the time you realise, it's too late.