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Posts Tagged ‘answers’

Guess what I’m doing right now. Right at this very moment. Go on, take a shot.

Yep. I’m listening to my iPod. Chilling out to the sweet tunes of U2. Ahh.

I owe Jamie big time. He was fantastic, by the way. It was a kind of scaled-down version of the original Bugsy Malone, but they kept the big song numbers in, and, of course, lots of cream pie throwing. It was a real hit. Jamie hammed it up like anything, and he and the girl playing Tallulah stole the show in their little witty banter scene.

The kid’s got a bright future ahead of him. At the very least as a guidance counsellor.

I sauntered in to work on Friday night. Lloyd was bouncing around as usual, radiating waves of Lloydness that seemed to have the very walls shivering with irritation. I wandered over to the bar to start serving the few customers that were either lingering from the afternoon or starting early for the night. Sure enough, I’d barely served the first Crown when Lloyd was behind me, talking into my ear.

“Gotta guess tonight, Artie, or I’m keeping your iPod. For good, Artie.”

I resisted the urge to turn and kick him in the crotch. I kept very calm, and affected a note of disappointment in my voice.

“Oh dear, Lloyd. I’ve almost run out of ideas. How about… um… Lettuce? Breadboard? Kittenbrush?” I refilled the water jugs.

“Artie, Artie, Artie, you’re not trying very hard are you? Guess I’ll be keeping it.”

“Guess so.”

“Well, I’ll let you keep guessing til the end of the night, Artie. Think hard.”

“Okay, Lloyd. I’ll think on it.”

I spent the rest of the night making sure it looked as though I was pondering the problem with intense concentration. Occasionally I would make some other stupid suggestion like “Trufflebag” or “Papermug”. Lloyd was practically jumping from one end of the bar to the other.

He’s such an imbecile.

By the time close rolled around, I was already feeling pretty tired. Fridays take it out of you. But my mood improved considerably as Lloyd pushed ahead of me into the changeroom.

“Artie, Artie, it’s the end of the night and you still haven’t guessed. Which means I win. I win and you l-” Suddenly he spotted the note stuck to his locker. I had photocopied a page from Jamie’s large book of Grimm’s Tales and circled the relevant sentence in bright pink highlighter. Lloyd’s face fell faster than a drunk giraffe.

“Very unoriginal, Lloyd. Really, it was almost disappointing to find this.” I leaned over his shoulder and spoke directly into his ear. “I want it back by tomorrow.”

And it was in my mailbox first thing Saturday morning.

I spoke to Joanie last night at work, too. She wanted to tell me that Abi had really improved since our lunch last week, and to thank me for bringing James.

“She’s so much brighter, I can’t even begin to describe it. I was so worried, you know, that the depression would drive her to do something silly,” she confessed. “It’s horrible to have that thought running around your head all day.” Then she laughed. “He rang yesterday to speak to her, and I’ve never seen Abi move so quickly from the lounge room to the hallway. I think there may have been a land-speed record involved.”

I grinned. “It does get that way, I suppose, when you’re young.”

Joanie laughed at me. “Because you’re obviously getting on in years. I would go so far as to describe you as geriatric.”

But tonight was the real icing on the cake. Sunday again, nice and quiet. James came in wearing a huge silly grin on his face that made me wonder for a second whether he was the same person I’d been working with for the last two months.

“So,” I said jauntily, “having a good day are we? Did you speak to Abi again?”

“Yeah,” he said, almost dazed, “yeah, I did. She’s fantastic, isn’t she? I’ve never met anyone like her, she’s so…” He made vague swirling gestures in the air, twiddling his fingers. “Sparkly.”

“She’s a real gem, yes,” I laughed.

“But Arthur…” He grabbed my arm. “Arthur, that’s not all. I got a letter today.”

“Really?” I felt a jolt of excitement run through me. His energy was contagious.

“Arthur, it’s Hannah. She wrote to me. She’s okay.” His voice shook slightly. “She’s okay.”

“Do you know where she is?”

“She said… she said she can’t tell me yet, but that she missed me, and she’ll come back eventually. She says she’s coming back.” He paused. “It might take a while, but that’s okay. I’ll see her some day.”

A shining white pebble on the forest path. Mark another one up for Jamie.

But when I got home this evening, I found a message of my own. I turn my phone off during work, of course, but not many people ring me anyway. Tonight, though, I had a little reminder telling me to check my 1 New Voice Message. I dialled the voicemail number.

“Uh… oh. Um. Hi. Er, it’s me. The, um, it’s Eva. The girl, from the hospital? Yeah. Sorry, I hate answering machines. Uh, listen, I was wonderi- well, you gave me your number, so, so I guess, what I’m asking, um, would you like to go get some coff- well it doesn’t have to be coffee, I mean I just wanted to say thank you, and you don’t have to, but if you wanted to go get something, sometime, that would be… great. Uh, so, here’s my number…” She reeled off a string of digits. “And, guess I’ll see you soon. Or… not.” Beep.

I’d spent enough time perusing Jamie’s books to get a fair idea of where Eva might fit into this whole thing. The thing is, as far as I can tell, her story never really finished. I mean, you hear about her sister, and the wedding, and they live happily ever after, etcetera, but Eva’s story sort of cuts off at the point where I found her. So where do we go from here? How does this part of the story end?

I’m tempted to think it’s not the end at all. I think Jamie would probably agree it’s a whole new story altogether. Let’s see how it goes.

I’ll call her tomorrow.

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So here I am, back in Newcastle.

You know what? Nine year olds are smarter than we think they are. I’m sure I was probably convinced of my own superior intellect as a nine year old, but I think that as a general rule they’re a vastly underrated contender for mental capabilities.

I got here this morning just as Lily arrived home from taking Jamie to school, which was lucky. I could tell almost straight away that she’d had another row with Josh recently – there’s a certain set to her shoulders, specific lines that grow deeper on her face, a distinct glaze to her eyes that are sure-fire signals that she’s had to listen to yet another three-hour session of far-fetched excuses and wild accusations, and come out of it at the end still unable to force Josh to pay child support. My suggestion that she simply not let him see Jamie until he’s willing to take some financial responsibility for his own son is invariably met with a cold glare, and an inquiry as to whether I will be the one to explain to Jamie why he won’t be allowed to see his father. So I skipped it this time, and instead took my sister inside, made her a pot of tea and found a movie for us to watch.

As I was getting up to make us some toasted sandwiches, I asked Lily whether Josh was coming to see Jamie’s play. She gave me a pained look.

“No, Arthur, he’s not. You won’t have to see him, or talk to him.”

“That’s not what I meant. I was actually thinking of you. And Jamie.” But I could see her point. I have really gone out of my way to avoid talking to Josh, ever again if necessary. Anger is not a pretty emotion.

Lily sighed. “Actually, I was thinking. You should tell Jamie about this Leonard -”

“Lloyd.”

“- right, this Lloyd of yours. Or even about Abi. And James.”

I glanced at her curiously. “Why?”

“Just see if he can shed any light on the situation.”

“But-”

“Are those sandwiches ready yet?”

So when Jamie got home this afternoon I took him down to the beach. There was quite a lot of debris along the tideline so we began building sandcastles, using bits of flotsam for decoration. We heaped quite a large amount of sand together and were carving little windows into the sides.

“So, guess what,” I began, “do you remember Abigail, my boss’ daughter, from when you came down to Sydney a while ago?”

Jamie looked thoughtful for a second. “Was she the one with the sparkle earrings?”

I nodded. Amazing, the things they remember.

“I like her. She told me her earrings were because she’s a princess, and she made me a string bracelet. I wore it for about twenty days.”

“Well,” I said, wondering why on earth Lily would want me to tell Jamie this, “a really strange thing has happened to her. She keeps falling asleep, and no-one knows why. She’s really sleepy all the time.”

“Oh.” He added a shell doorway to the base of the castle. “Can they fix her?”

“Well, she’s feeling a bit better lately, because she made a new friend. He works at the pub as well.”

“Ohh… did he kiss her?”

“What?” I fumbled with the seaweed I was trying to place. “No, he didn’t. Why do you ask?”

“He has to kiss her to wake her up. That’s how you wake up the sleepy princesses.”

I looked at him. Kids are funny – they’re so earnest when they tell you these kinds of things. He sounded so certain. Bam, there’s the solution. Doesn’t he realise life is more complicated than that? Of course he doesn’t. He’s nine.

I didn't manage to get a picture of our castle, but it was pretty close to this

A wave rolled in and knocked down the castle. “Oh, no,” I groaned, disappointed. But Jamie just stood up and started collecting some twigs.

“C’mon, Uncle Arthur. We’ll build a better one.”

So we started collecting sticks. We built them into a kind of teepee shape, and piled the sand up around the framework.

“So is her friend a prince?” asked Jamie, fixing a crab claw to the very top of the castle.

“Hm? Oh, no, but he’s very nice. He’s pretty sad sometimes though. You see, he and his sister had to leave home, and they ended up in a house with a woman who wasn’t very nice – ”

“A witch,” stated Jamie firmly. “Did they push her into the oven?”

“Jamie, where are you hearing these things? You don’t push people into ovens. People go to gaol for things like that.”

“Was she holding them prisoner?” So nonchalant. Unbelievable.

“Um. Sort of. But they locked her in the bathroom and escaped.”

“Ha ha!” Jamie seemed to find this a great joke. Then he paused. “So why is he unhappy now?”

“Well, when his sister went to a different home, she ran away again, but now James can’t find her.”

“His name is James? That’s like my name!” We started digging a moat. “He just needs to follow the trail.”

“What trail?”

“Breadcrumbs, you know. The birds might have eaten some though. But he’ll find the trail again. She always leaves one.”

Again, very similar to ours. In fact I think they may have stolen our idea.

Again, very similar to ours. In fact I think they may have stolen our architectural techniques.

The waves were coming in. We jumped up and tried to shield our castle, but even Knut couldn’t stop the tide. Our masterpiece was again consumed. But Jamie just smoothed down the sand again, and started looking for new building materials. Further up the beach was a line of pebbles and small rocks, so we gathered a sizable collection and began putting together a strong foundation.

I was turning Jamie’s words over in my head. I wished I could have his certainty. The absolute conviction that he knew how the story would end.

I remembered what Lily had told me. “Okay, Mr Smarty-Nephew. What about this one. There’s a guy at work who’s really annoying.”

“Jack MacIntyre is annoying. He broke three of my best pencils last week.” Jamie had worked out how to fix the pebbles together using wet sand as a kind of cement, and was making good progress.

“Well this guy, he’s kind of like that. He’s got something of mine, and he won’t give it back until I can guess his name.”

Now he was looking at me like I must have been hit over the head with the stupid stick. “How many tries have you had to guess it?”

I thought about that. “Well, I’ve had a while, but I’ve probably only had two real tries at it.”

“That’s good.” He kept building. I waited.

He kept building. It was really quite an impressive structure.

I waited.

Then I couldn’t wait any more. “Well?” I asked. “What’s the answer? How do I guess his name? What is it!?”

My young nephew looked up at me with a face that seemed older than his years. He shook his head, grinned mischievously, and said, “Uncle Arthur, you’re really dumb sometimes.”

Then he told me.

The tide eventually reached our fortress, but it didn’t have nearly the same devastating effect. Jamie had built it well, and the water swirled harmlessly around the base as the towers stood strong. We watched it for a long time.

Conclusion? I need to do some more reading.

Our finished product... pretty much.

Our finished product... pretty much.

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