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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Drastic Measures

This is not good. Not even remotely. I will kill Lloyd, and it will be enjoyable.

This morning I found a small package in my letterbox. Inside was a CD and a note.

The note read:

“Dear Artie,

You haven’t guessed my name yet. You’ve already had two whole weeks and you haven’t guessed it. Is there something wrong here? Why can’t you guess my name? I’ll tell you why. Because you’ll never be able to guess it. And that’s a shame, Artie. A real shame.”

It was unsigned, of course. On the CD was a photo file (criminal waste of a disc if you ask me):

Now tell me, is this not the work of a madman? How on earth does he know where I live?

More importantly, what am I going to do?

I went for a walk in the park to shake off my irritation. Surely, I thought, surely this is a ridiculous situation. What on earth can I do that doesn’t seem equally as childish and ludicrous? Again I ran the options through my mind.

  1. Confront Lloyd. Not likely to work out too well – it’s difficult to reason with someone so completely illogical.
  2. Request help from Joanie. Seems so petulant, doesn’t it? Over something so small? Well, I mean, the iPod set me back a hundred and fifty dollars, but is it really worth troubling her? Abi’s still bafflingly ill, Joanie’s not looking so crash hot herself – what kind of selfish idiot would I have to be to trouble her at a time like this?
  3. Hurt Lloyd until he returns the damn thing. Unfortunately, as puerile as Lloyd is, having me arrested for assault would not be beyond him.
  4. Call the police myself. “Excuse me, officer, but I want to report a theft. An iPod. At my place of work. No, I know who took it. He just won’t give it back. What? No, this isn’t a joke. No, I’m not trying to waste your – yes, I know wasting police time is a criminal – no, officer. Yes, officer. Sorry, officer. Goodbye.”

I kicked around on the grass until I found a spot that looked nice, under a tree, where I huffily threw myself down and crossed my arms. That bastard.

Nearby, a picnic was underway – three or four families with young children, all shrieking happily and running around, except for two. A small girl, probably about six, and a boy of four or five. The girl was playing on her own, throwing a small ball into the air and catching it, down near the pond. The boy stood a little apart from the larger group of kids, torn between wanting to join in and watching the girl. His face and clothes were smudged with dirt – it looked as though he’d probably been pushed to the ground a few times during the course of the game.

Eventually the inevitable happened – the little rubber ball ended up in the water, and the girl ended up in tears. I looked over to see if the parents had noticed, but they were busy chatting and taking lazy sips from a bottle of white wine. When I looked back, the boy had gone over to the girl and was patting her on the shoulder. She pushed him away and pointed to where her ball was floating, bobbing lazily on the pond’s surface. The boy fetched a long stick and started carefully manoeuvring the forked end to pull the ball back across the water. Once or twice I nearly jumped up, sure he would fall in (though the pond was not so deep), but after a lengthy struggle he was proudly able to present the dripping ball to the girl, a grin all over his face. Yet she merely snatched her toy from his hands and ran back to the picnic blanket. Despondent, he sat down by the edge of the pond, and poked moodily at the floating leaves. Poor kid.

I stood up, and brushed the excess grass from my clothes, ready to head home. I was just checking my pockets to make sure I hadn’t dropped my phone, when I caught sight of the little girl again. She had turned back, ambling sheepishly towards the boy’s hunched figure. She touched his shoulder, lightly, and when he looked up, offered her hand to him, the ball sitting snugly in her palm. She tossed it to him, and he caught it with both hands, looked at it a second, then threw it back. The girl caught it and laughed. I trudged away from the happily playing pair, feeling better.

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It’s always a bit disorienting when the bus people forget to change their advertisements for time-specific events. I know the WYD posters were still trundling around the city long after it was (finally) over.

Yesterday it was the ones for Missing Persons Week, on my way to the Fox and Raven. Actually I only saw one, and I didn’t see many when it actually was Missing Persons Week, about a month ago.

I’ve never actually known anyone who’s gone missing. I mean, it’s possible that someone I once knew has, in the interim, disappeared without a trace, but I’ve never experienced that. It sounds horrible, anyway – and look at the repercussions, especially when it’s a child that goes missing. It becomes this worldwide phenomenon, I mean the Azaria Chamberlain case became this integral icon of Australian identity, and the furore regarding Madeleine McCann’s disappearance continues to be heard, and loudly, to this day.

Anyway all of this was churning around in my head by the time I got to work yesterday afternoon. I was discussing the whole thing with Katie, a Sunday regular. Neither of us has kids, but Katie has a twelve year old niece, and of course I was thinking of Jamie.

Katie pointed out that age really changes the nature of the disappearance and how it’s treated. “I mean,” she said, “that with the Chamberlain case it’s not as though the baby could have just wandered off; with a ten week old baby, you know it’s an external influence causing the disappearance. But you get to that poor McCann girl, and, well, it’s not particularly likely that she would have left the babies alone, but it’s a possibility. And as for my niece Sammy, if a twelve year old goes missing you’re torn between the ideas of abduction and teenage rebellion, aren’t you?”

The idea of Jamie going missing was like a throbbing ache in my head. I couldn’t imagine what it would do to Lily, or to me. I pictured the police scouring the harbour and the beaches, questioning neighbours, compiling a list of suspects, at the top of which would probably be Lily. Or, more likely, Josh.

I picked up another polishing cloth, throwing the old one into the tub and choosing a new glass from the rack. “I don’t understand how anyone’s life could go on after something like that,” I mused, flicking suds off the glass. “There’s just absolutely no closure. It’d be enough to literally drive you insane.”

There was a crash from the end of the bar. James had fumbled a tray, smashing three glasses and slicing his finger open. I grabbed the first aid kit and went over.

“What happened?” I asked, as I examined his wound for any remaining shards of glass.

“Nothing,” he muttered, “Sorry. I slipped. And. Must’ve just, uh, lost it.”

I glanced up at his face. He was pale, and his hand shook just the tiniest bit as I fished out one remaining sliver with the tweezers. He’s pretty young, only just 18, and keeps mostly to himself. I thought about asking him again, but he wrapped the band-aid firmly around his finger and went to grab the dustpan and broom. I shrugged.

After work, though, when we were grabbing our stuff from the staffroom, he started to talk. It was almost as though he was thinking out loud, not really talking to me.

“My sister and I left. We didn’t tell them why, didn’t leave a note. Didn’t need to. Don’t think they ever looked for us.”

I felt almost like I was eavesdropping.

“Eventually though, we were picked up off the streets. Pretty young then, y’know. Went into foster homes. All the usual stuff. This one woman, she seemed so great at first, nice house, treated us well, but really all she wanted was company, and then help with the housework. Used to make my sister wash every bloody window in the house before breakfast. Didn’t let us join any of the clubs at school, we always had to come straight home. In the end…”

He paused, hefted his backpack onto one shoulder and turned to look at me. “In the end, she stopped us even going to school one day, locked the doors and windows, wouldn’t let us out. My sister barricaded her in the bathroom with the lounge furniture, and then broke the locks on the front door. She’s so clever, Hannah. Then we left, again. When they found us the next time, they got a home for Hannah straight away. Sweet little thing, fifteen, smart. Not so easy with me, but I was almost 18, so I could strike out on my own. Get a job.” He gestured vaguely at our surroundings.

Then he turned away. “But the next time Hannah disappeared, she didn’t come to me.”

“Why not?”

James shrugged. “Who knows. I don’t. I don’t know how to find her, either. I tried, for a long time. Either she can’t get to me, nor I to her, or she doesn’t want to be found.”

“I’m so sorry. I really am. It must have been hard to hear Katie and I talking tonight.”

Another shrug. “Yeah. I guess so.”

We walked out onto the street together. It seemed pointless to tell him that it was going to be okay, or that he’d find her eventually, when the words were so obviously hollow and meaningless. Tonight he wandered through the park with me, though he usually goes along King Street. The duck in the lake yelped sleepily at us. The trees rustled softly in the windless night.

We reached the road.

“‘Night Arthur. See you next week.”

“G’night James.” I watched him walk away up the street, cars streaking past in ribbons of light, just a shadow on the buildings. The duck squawked again, and I told it amiably to go stuff its beak in the pondweed, and headed in the other direction.

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