by Michael Botur

 

She told Sammy and Marky she’d be back in a heartbeat – warriors were always swift. While everything was still orange, and the birds were screaming, Jodie checked that no invaders had sneaked into her cave overnight and she took the axe from the kitchen wall and put it on the passenger seat of the Jeep aDOWNLOAD BUTTONnd rumbled past the Tenants Wanted sign which she couldn’t get rid of and joggled down the stones of the driveway and plunged into the highway.  The half mile of driveway could be her friend, giving her warnings when Invaders were arriving, but it could work against her too – the end of the driveway was where Tommy used to be tied up, until he disappeared. His doggy house had been stolen not long after He had left her. One of those monsters in town knew something and wasn’t saying. She would slay the monster eventually. Tomorrow.

She sped all the way there and parked on the paving stones in the plaza, read the opening hours on the realtor’s office in the morning glow. The sun was about to sizzle the world. Numbers she could read without worry, and she could recognise some letters, and logos. Words were harder – words had to be trusted before she let them in behind her eyes.

Jodie decided that nobody would show up to collect their Town Cryer for another two hours. She heard a chip packet rustle across the cobblestones, and turned around, and stuffed her fingers in her ears and began singing, and pulled one hand out of her ear and hauled really hard and managed to lift the heavy thick plastic lid of the newsletter box and began snatching out the nasty shiny newsletters, pinching their corners so she didn’t leave any fingerprints, and she rushed to the rumbling Jeep to dump the pages on the passenger seat. She may as well empty the whole box. With one arm, and still singing la-la-ha-ha, she strapped the seatbelt on them so that they wouldn’t fly out of the window. The newsletters were still warm– she supposed they had been printed at three in the morning and trucked here as summer burst open and leaked on the land. With her last armful of newsletters, she knocked the bin on its side and the lid cracked and she was already in the Jeep and some of her hair was caught in the seatbelt because it was so long that it touched her hips, and she drove right over a tussock and went through unending flaxes, squirting bark, upsetting a cloud of dust, and over a big stone island in the middle of the road, and someone was screaming and she realised it was her, and she kept her foot down hard on the pedal until she recognised the tan stones of her driveway and she could take her shoulders out of her ears.

At home, she quickly checked on Sammy then scuttled inside her base with an armload of paper and the axe fell out of her arms and she forgot it and ran harder. He was on her back, always behind her, pouncing as soon as she went outside. War always finds a warrior.

When the door was locked and Jodie had a serving fork safely in front of her, to stab Them, she tried to read her printed letter in the Town Cryer, the letter warning about the invaders coming, the ones she’d seen fiddling with the phone lines, the ones in the spaceships disguised as clouds. The letter was in a little frilly box with a picture of a round man. It was hard to stop the words and headings on the edges of her vision dancing, but she managed to focus enough that she could recognise her own words. She didn’t know if they’d changed her words, she’d have to phone the Reading Boy. They had put her letter in a little square on the corner of the last page. The boy had helped her write it, the boy she paid. She’d ring him up when she was feeling hunched and scratchy about something, and he’d come over and write what she was trying to say. He always sat as close to the door as he could.

She retreated to His study, panting, her ears whistling as she gradually calmed down. There were still some of His things in here, but He would break her if she touched His things. He was away in the Philippines selling the Films with the Carrots. If he heard her touching his things, he would reach across the world and grasp her.

She brought the newsletters in and lined them up, every awful Town Cryer, and began to tear them into even strips. She was ripping the editor’s intestines out, she knew they hadn’t listened to her warning letter, she could feel it.

She stopped tearing when she saw something, and phoned the Reading Boy. It took him a long time to cycle over and help her turn the words into sounds.

The photo that was looking at her was an introduction from Dr Andrew P-A-L-O-C-Z-Y-K. That was a funny word, spiny, strange: Pa…lo… Czyk. Something wrong with those letters. She couldn’t even say it, only look at it. There were letters missing! Funny word! But Andrew – the writing called him Andrew – had been working on something called the Indo… cheese? Pen-in…sula for the past fourteen years and he had returned to proof his notes and publish a new book while enjoying a little R and R. It was good to be back. He couldn’t farm, he said, laughing, his lips chapped with dust, his teeth white, wiping his Gaultier glasses on the tail of his cuffed shirt, but he could share the wonderful wealth of the area.

An-drew.

His friend was from here, the words said, his friend had showed him the Hill People when he was attached to the Service.

Research, he said.

Can I go now? the boy pleaded, My mum said I have to stop helping you soon.

What do those letters say?

Nutter’s Corner.

Why is there a round man?

It’s a peanut. That’s where they stuck your letter, in Nutter’s Corner.

What’s a nutter? Is it a kind of warrior?

*

Jodie checked the bushes for snipers but they were impossible to spot, anyway, it was hopeless. She picked some dandelions for Sammy while she was inside the hedge. There used to be snipers when she was growing up in the palms with the jungle warriors all around. That was when she was Jo-Thé. When she tried to see it now, everything looked melty. She wriggled over to the hose and unfurled it then crawled on her elbows back to the cave and fed the hose in. The stones turned her elbows yellow with dust.

She checked for intruders on her property, and she especially checked for Line Men because they were fiddling with the phone lines all the time, playing in the spiderweb power lines, and she let Marky and Sammy out of their pen and led them across the rocky driveway to the cellar door, tied them, kissed inside their ears and whispered, “I’m going to marry you,” took the hose and sprayed the Yuckiness from under their tails, and asked them to watch over her while she dug. Marky’s pretty tiara fell off, so she had to fix it back on again.

She wheezed and a pink circle bloomed in the centre of her forehead as she hauled the cellar doors open. When each door hit the driveway, a cloud of dust exploded and she knew she was being shot at and she ducked and covered her head. The cellar hadn’t had any wine for a hundred seasons, it was just a dark cold blue pit with steel and wood doors so strong they wouldn’t let a tornado rip them away. The cellar used to have a ladder, because it was straight down, buried in the earth, but water had rotted the ladder and the corks in every bottle.

Marky and Sammy nibbled a few spare flowers which snaked out of the driveway toward the sun. They didn’t paw or snort or be naughty. Whenever Jodie was in the cellar, she could hear the tramp of each hoof, even from metres away. Sound travelled so much better underground, and it made her heart slow down to know that no Invaders were coming up the driveway, unless they were invisible.

*

She chipped away for two weeks to make the cellar bigger and squarer, from frost to fry each day. She hardly ate, it was good for her figure, His voice kept saying. Don’t let ‘em know you’re a old lady.

The tornado doors looked like they would cave in if somebody stood on the dry, crumbly, splintery wood. She had to have it tested before They arrived, but there was no one around to test it. Sometimes the invaders winked and flashed from planes; sometimes Jodie would spot small mounds in the brown fields the shape and size of an invader’s head. Big pink men inside her cave.

Wearing swimming goggles and a dust mask, carrying a battery torch and a kerosene lamp, she went into His shed, in the rear buildings of the farm, peering through two years of dried moths and brown haze, and dragged heavy bags of cement out, gritting her teeth, hurting her back, until the bottoms ripped open and little hills of cement powder littered the driveway.

The little arrowhead picture on the cement packet meant that something was on the internet, the Boy had showed her, because the internet was mostly pictures, and the funny pictures with hands and trowels showed her how to mix it.

She pulled the oozing hose down and fed water to the scoops of cement mix, raked it flat and even. Where she had been cutting the dirt away from the wall, showing the bricks, the wall was ragged and the cement had brown hunks in it like chocolate chips, but the oldest layers of cement had already dried and she decided she wouldn’t get in trouble. She stirred the stony soup with a broom handle, wetting it every four minutes, until the broom handle refused to turn. She mixed and spread the cement and kept an eye on the wine crates which she had stacked into stairs. She couldn’t get out without the crates. They’d begun to squeak when she stood on them. If they shattered underneath her, she would be trapped down here, and then it would be so easy for Them to invade.

*

Jodie returned the next day after her pussy-stretching exercises and her Jumbo Jumble Puzzle Book and dropped onto the stack of crates, and tried to wrench the broom handle out of the new stone floor, and the handle snapped and pricked the underside of her arm. She stood there watching the soft brown flesh under her arm leak little red needles which pooled into a red blob. She stacked the crates and popped open a door and scanned the horizon, blinking a million times, picking a seed out of her eye. She squeezed sweat out of her straight black fringe. She crept out of the cave and showed her war wound to Marky, and Marky licked it. Then she held Sammy’s top lip up and scratched his gums until he shivered, and gave him a carrot and told him to put his thing away and calm down. She said Sorry about the films, and Marky blew a raspberry at her.

She shovelled Marky’s yucky poo into a pile. Some of it had to be piled beside the cave, there were little mountains everywhere already. She said hello to the pig as she passed him. The pig didn’t have a name any more since the Film. She pulled the blue plastic thing off the wood pile and, one at a time, carried the flat boards to the cave and – checking that there were no dust clouds coming– dropped the boards into the cave. Sneezing and saying ‘Sorry,’ she dropped back into the cave, landing on the crates, which fell over as she stepped off them. There were six wine crates and, when stacked, they were as tall as Jodie was. It was easy to fall in without them, hard to get out without them. They would hold her weight, though.

She put a base of dirty, flat Town Cryers under the boards – it would be sticky, and she laid boards on top of the cement gunk, retreating from it as she went.

The base of the cave was becoming flat and even. When she pulled the doors down, they let in only a blade of light, and when the blade pointed the opposite way to the way it had been in the morning, and her throat was a dry leaf and she needed to go pee-pee but she didn’t wanna because it stung so bad, she stacked the crates again, checked for people coming to split her open, hauled herself out of the cave, patted Marky and Sammy on the bum until they clomped back to their room. She went into the kitchen, slid the deadbolt and the chain in place, drew the curtains, checked between a crack in the curtains for attackers, and then made three sandwiches and ate one herself and gave Marky his favourite and Sammy too.

She felt bad when she peed, she was supposed to save it for the Films, but she couldn’t. She was being bad, and it felt red and hot and tiny little beads tinkled into the potty.

*

The sun was meanest between noon and three o’clock, but at least it made the spy planes wink and flash as they travelled overhead. They were looking for her, looking for a way into her cave, to invade her. She had try and keep her brain painted with camouflage, to keep her hands clenched into fists. The sunny season had gone on longer than it should have and her thighs were always sticky like when those men had that party inside her. It felt funny having shorts on, Jodie hadn’t worn clothes that much and she was still getting used to the feeling of warm fabric on her, like His hands on her all the time, and she kept having to turn around and say, ‘What do you want?’ and all that was there was a hot shiny crust of road.

Jodie wanted Tommy to guard the Battle Cave while she worked, but the village monsters had killed Tommy without even being seen. She’d never found Tommy’s body, but it was definitely the monsters that did it. Some of the mean little people had spraypainted their names on the wooden poles at the end of the driveway where the highway flowed past the stupid Tenants Wanted sign. The ones whose cars had the engines that sounded like Him gargling weren’t as bad as their dads, though, some of the dads had come out here to record that film, and the day was so hot that the edge of the world rippled like the black rings on top of the stove and He had given the dads six cans each and they dropped cans on Sammy’s straw and their handshakes were complicated and they all kept their caps pulled low and black glasses on their eyes and she knew some of them were supposed to be at work, putting out bushfires, and Tommy and all the dads stuck her with their glowing pink sticks and when he was mixing up the movie, He kept saying, ‘We hit the jackpot, Jode, this one’s big time.’ And the men were afraid of Tommy even though he was never allowed off his chain, and He scratched the back of His neck and said, ‘Oh I concur, ya Staffordshire’s a scrappy fighter, but arks me again in six months, I’m not selling today,’ and then He left for Manila to get the DVDs pressed, and He told her to sell the bull, they were done with it, and He wasn’t here when Tommy disappeared, and her pinkness was too full of dirt and dust for her to even walk.

*

Jodie was gossiping about Sammy’s black new bridle when there was a burst of insects and the ripping of gravel and Jodie’s legs turned to wood and she told the horses to get back. The dragon of puffy dust stretched along the entire driveway before the car stopped. Jodie untied the horses’ leads and slapped their bums, Go, Go! and sprinted for her cave and hit the crates, kicked the crates away and pulled shadow over her head.

Some of the cement was still squishy and cold on her toes and she had to crouch in it. She could only block out the light-sword by putting both hands over her eyes. THEY’RE COMING, THEY’RE HERE, she whispered to the Town Cryer, and her heart slowed down just enough that the invader couldn’t hear it.

There was a CLONK and a sound like Him munching cereal loud.

I’m looking for Jo-Thé, the intruder asked the cellar doors. Or Jodie, if that’s easier.

No one called her that, that was her forgotten name, so she didn’t say anything and tried not to shiver too loudly.

Sprechen sie Deutsch? Ha-ha, but of course you don’t.

A rectangle of his face appeared where the lips of the cellar doors met.

He asked her if she was taking a bath. Something sloshed and ice spread up her leg.

He asked her if she was siphoning the water out of the cellar.

She didn’t know what that meant, so she didn’t say anything.

The intruder man said that her horses hadn’t gone far, they must really love her. He said she must be a good mum to them. You should tie them up, less you want to lose $3000 worth of Danish Warmblood.

He asked her how much she really loved them, out of ten.

There was a thud and a gasp as her back touched the wall.

It’s okay, he said. Innumberable cultures have rituals in which women and men lay with animals. I tell you, he laughed, ‘Tis impossible to retire when there is so much work to do!

He asked her to come out and talk about the Tenants Wanted sign, Pretty Please With Sugar On Top, but Jodie waited until the sky had turned the colour of grapes and the sun had shrunk to a glowing cigarette tip and the grey porridge sticking to her shoes became crusty and sharp.

*

He boiled a jug of water.

Why’d you put the sign up if you didn’t want me to come here? You wanted me to come. He dropped the name of her husband. He said he’d seen some of her films.

She said, You buy the movies from the internet. Not here. He sells them, not me. I don’t know where he is, let me go.

No one’s holding you here.

The open door cooled their cups of tea very quickly, and she stood with her back against the wall and said Andrew had to leave or she’d get Tommy on him.

That was the dog? Your husband told me all about it. He took off his glasses and his eyes were even rounder than before, drinking her in. There was a dog in one of your films – “Doing Dr Dolittle,” correct? Are you quite sure you haven’t misplaced your dog? Or has he become a canine gladiator, hm? Dog-fighting, my dear. It’s recreation, to some.

She had had people laughing at her in the farm store when she had been to buy supplies. When those people had laughed, it hadn’t been funny laughter, like when Tommy had got stuck inside her and He had laughed so hard He couldn’t even work the camera no more and had to fix it in Editing because his hands were shaking.

He took something from his car and wrote on it, and spoke into a little metal box-thing. The boy who’s been assisting you, in terms of your learning to read and write – I’d recommend you tell him his services aren’t required any further.

He drove to where the driveway met the road and Jodie watched him take the Tenant Wanted sign and break it over his knee and pat his hands together.

*

He was there watching and scribbling notes in his little computer-book when she filled Marky’s and Sammy’s waters, and stirred more pellets into the split drums the pigs ate from, and cleaned Tommy’s kennel in case he wanted to come back, and raked the soil and sprinkled grass seed in case they gave Booger the Bull back.

Oh don’t mind me, he said. Pretend I’m not even here.

He said that the rent had been in her bank account from Day One, and to please tell him if she needed some more money, money was no object, and she was allowed to ring His accountant, and she did, even though the scorpion-phone shivered in her hand because she wasn’t sposed to use it without checking first, and the voice said that the bond and rent money were coming through whether she liked it or not, she couldn’t stop money coming in, and there was no legal reason that Dr Andrew Paloczyk could not be her tenant.

*

He never ate until after she had eaten, he just watched her eat while she listened to his fingers on the keys, he watched her stretch and clean her pussy, rolling a carrot back and forth across the table, and gave her interesting things to put up her pussy, watched her pile yucky doo-doo beside the cave and keep the horses off her back. He only ever went to town for three hours at a time, he always came back when he said he would, and she would watch the baking road until the humps of dust rose out of the ground again and a car wobbled towards her and she put her back against the wall of the cool, damp cave and keep her arms on the crumbly cave doors and she only came out when he said everything was okay and it was just Me, only Me.

He asked her if the cave was still wet. He didn’t tell her to put more cement in, but when she loaded bags of cement onto Sammy’s back and brought them over and took a whole day sprinkling the grey dust into the hole, Andrew nodded and scribbled something in his small book. The floor was thick and slushy yet firm. There was also a little black stick which Andrew whispered into and sometimes held up to his ear and listened to his own voice coming out of.

Now the leaves of the turnips woke up dewy and shivering in the mornings, and the dust stuck to the ground and darkened, and the midges didn’t batter her head as she trudged through the doo-doo to say goodnight to her special, snorting, snuffling boys.

The sunsets became more sudden, and she stopped taking the axe to bed, and he stopped sleeping in his car and started lying on the bed and watching her sleep, and then she woke up under a white moon and he was under the sheets, then he was heavy on her back and his breath sounded like a gale, and when she woke up, all the covers were wrapped around him, and he was writing notes while she shivered, then he rolled over and pinned her and pushed her ankles up against her ears and he dropped his notebook, and wrapped her hair around his knuckles.

If you run, he said softly, Who’ll look after your horses?

*

She wasn’t allowed to eat out of a pot with her fingers, but she did it anyway one morning and he didn’t tell her off. She didn’t want him to go to town again, except that he probably needed a new notebook, this one was almost full. And he’d been talking into his voice stick so much. She shifted her seat closer to him and tugged on the cuff of his jersey. He looked down his nose and pulled his elbow away and stared at where she had touched him.

What were you writing?

You wouldn’t be able to read it, anyway.

I been learning.

No, I’ve seen enough of your writing.

Enough for what?

He folded his notebook closed, nodded and rubbed his eyes and said, They’re born vicious, even the bitches. That Staffordshire of Jeremy’s? Probably pursuing a career in professional fighting. You can never take the fight out of them. Good thing it’s gone. It was a war dog, Jodie. That’s not you, is it.

Then he brushed his teeth and flopped onto the bed, but she leapt off it and stormed into the Spare House, kicking his suitcase with its long handle and little wheels and threw his clothes around the room and crawled into his bed and wrapped her arms around herself the way the black leather felt and she shivered until he came over and rubbed her back and said, Are you finished?

She told him to be nice to her.

Are you FINISHED?

She put her knees into her armpits to make him happy. She could cross her legs behind her head, if that was what he needed.

No, the Cave, I mean – have you finished the cave? I don’t have forever.

*

She only went on the first Monday of every month. If she didn’t clear the fan mail, the post office man got really mean on her. A man came one day and tried to give her a package and he didn’t even want anything for it, just tried to put the wrapped box in her hands, but Andrew scared him off and she closed her eyes and gripped him around his middle, thick as a tree. She was safe in his shade and she didn’t need to think about war if he was watching.

She always forgot where the key was and it always felt alien to drive the truck – He had always done the driving, before he went to Manila. He had nailed up the Tenant Wanted sign and told her He wanted her to keep the income up while He was overseas selling the Petting Zoo trilogy, Jodie Feels A Little Horse and Jodie: Full of Bull and Jodie’s Dog Days.

She ducked into the mail room and stuck her key into the box and turned it and the overstuffed post box spewed letters into her sack. The letters had postmarks from parts of the world with weird colours and some of the letters had money in them, she could just feel it, and everything was always handwritten, and usually there was man-perfume on the letters.

She bumped into a farmer that she recognised and he laughed, The Cavewoman’s out and about! and she hurried out of the small room. Andrew had parked beside her Jeep and was talking to an evil man who sold lawnmowers and Andrew saw her and said, Exhibit A. The cave’ll be featured in National Geographic and you can tell folks you met a famous anthropologist.

Afro… pologist?

At the end of the driveway, he pulled up behind her and left his car doors open and followed her into the lounge and she punched him in the chest and locked herself in the potty room. She heard noise, voices, a donkey braying, and came out to find him with his arms spread wide over the back of the couch like a giant bird. He was watching Jodie’s Animal Farm.

He told her to take a seat and kicked the foot rest towards her.

Tell me how it feels, doing these things for Jeremy. His pen was hovering over the paper like a wasp. There was one white page left before he hit the back cover.

She sprinted out of the room and dashed across the dust and stones and threw herself into her cave and slid the iron bolt into place.

After a long time, he came and stood, blocking the last light, and then he said that she couldn’t stay down there forever: the cement would set around her ankles. I can hear you smiling, you know.

When her teeth began to clatter, she slid back the bar and went floppy and let him haul her out of there, with his pen clenched in his jaw. She couldn’t believe that he alone could lift her up.

I told Him I wouldn’t, but very well, he said. I shall endeavour to teach you how to read and write.

*

It began to rain even in the day time now, and some days the sun didn’t get out of bed, and Marky and Sammy needed tarps over their backs. There were too many weeds coming up through the dirt clods and the boys had to eat that up. She’d used to hope that all of the crops would fail so that she would die more quickly, but she couldn’t get rid of the crops and the cave was too safe for her to die.

She heard the door creak as he pushed it open and he said, I do apologise, and she closed her eyes and when she opened them, her face as stiff as the floorboards in the soggy cement of the cave, he was pulling the bed covers back. He said he needed to stay close to the subject, he was almost finished, he just had to type up his notes. He cut her sealed legs apart with the edge of his hand and then there were two and he said Hmm, This is a tad difficult.

He used his belt to tie her legs to the headboard and said Ahh. She was so dry that she could hear him scraping into her, like a boat grinding and groaning against a wharf. She hoped she didn’t have dirt in her, still.

Afterwards he said, You wanted me to come, and he opened up his thin computer and tickled its letters and checked his notebook and tickled some more letters before he slept and she pulled his arm off his keyboard and wrapped it around her and it was warm and smelled like dry towels, like it had never got dirt on it.

She decided to ask him to read her some of the books he had written. He could teach her about anthropology, she knew how to say the word now, she’d been practicing.

An-thro-pollo-jist.

And she wanted to ask about all the pits and scars and scrapes in his arm. Were they from Nam, or had he been seeing other countries?

*

One morning at breakfast, he cleared his throat and took the notebook away from his eyes and said, I can’t do this. You’re completely inept. The cement is too runny – you’ll simply have to mix it thicker. It simply doesn’t look right.

But it’s mine.

Then he pulled her long black hair until she left her seat and he showed her how to mix it and when she had got it right, he pulled her back to her seat and she carried on eating.

Don’t ruin this for me. It’s unprecedented. It’s unparalleled. If you don’t finish that cave… You know, it’s quite remarkable, he said. The majority of them aren’t as sensitive as you.

Them what?

Special cases.

I’m a warrior. This is my land.

He said, I see, and asked her if she was more comfortable being called a Courtesan. His fingers were hovering on the keyboard. She hadn’t noticed the computer being opened, its back to her.

She looked at the hands squeezing each other in her lap, then shifted down the table and stared out at Marky and Sammy.

IT WAS ASKED OF YOU what you would do if your horses weren’t there one morning. Would you… draw pictures of them? On the wall of your cave? You know you want to.

He slid a cube of charcoal across the tabletop to her and she tucked it into the boob holder with straps he had made her wear.

*

What he had made her do with the cement was right. He was right about everything. She spread it the same thickness and left the doors open when it wasn’t raining and some of it was a little bit dry, and she’d used up all the cement and it was too deep to go in there and there were a couple of days when she didn’t go into the cave, and then five days.

As she listened to the rain and mashed her food with her fingers, he closed the lid of the laptop and ripped her out of her seat and threw her onto the bed and sighed as he undid his belt buckle and tied her up, and then he went out of the door and she heard him calling to Sammy, but he was calling Sammy like a cat and she didn’t think it would work, but he came inside and took a huge carrot from the bag and she heard the squeak of latches opening and Sammy clopped inside the house and Jodie was so slippery with sweat that it wasn’t that bad when Andrew jammed the carrot inside her but Sammy was naughty coz he got muddy hoof prints and bits of hay all over the bed.

Afterwards they lay there, Jodie’s heart still hammering. The curls on his chest shook, and then he rolled over and opened the lid of his laptop and rattled a few keys and said, That answers that. He wrapped his fingers around her waist and squeezed. How does he keep you so tiny?

What did you write?

You couldn’t read it, anyway, he said, and closed the lid.

But you teached me.

*

She surfaced in the middle of the night and she knew half of the bed was suddenly empty and she burst out of the bedroom into the moonlight, her saggy breasts flapping, her thighs clapping. He was closing the trunk of his car and he glanced over his shoulder at her as he slid into the driver seat and pulled the door closed and he locked the door and wound down the window and said, ‘I can’t thank you enough, you’re invaluable, I’ll acknowledge you, don’t you worry about that,’ and pulled his sunglasses onto his eyes, even in the blackness. She held up the little notebook and backed away and he opened his car door and stepped slowly out.

How on earth did you get that? You don’t need that.

She stepped back until she heard a creaking, and realised there was a bar of black beneath her feet, and he ran at her, ‘Give it to me!’

She stepped backwards and Andrew’s foot fell flatly on the cellar door and there was a snap and a wet thud.

*

It was difficult figuring out how to operate his fancy car, but at least he’d left the key in it. It took a few minutes to find which button opened the trunk of the car, it was so dark in there, and it took two armloads to haul his laptop and suitcase out, because they were buried amongst DVDs and video tapes and copies of his published books about cave dwellers and trog…lo…dytes. Troglodytes. There was a picture of a caveman and a cavewoman with Afros doing it.

Trog-lo-dytes.

She had to go inside and haul two chairs out and it took her a while to lower them down into the cave, where Andrew was lying on little broken pieces of wood and trying to get the broom handle out of his leg. Then it took her another trip inside to get the carrots. When she had lowered the chairs in, she stepped down into the cool dark blue cave and yanked Andrew’s torn pants off around his ankles, and he said Thank Goodness you came, Oh Thank you thank you, but he stopped being nice when she shoved the carrots into his crack, slicked with cement, and stood upon the chairs and called to her boys, and when they moseyed over she took Sammy’s bridle, and Marky’s, and they gently stepped onto the chairs and came into the cave with her, Good boys, and she showed them where the carrot was, and they were heavier than Andrew and they held him down so he wouldn’t go anywhere, and she reached for the shovel and went to begin shovelling doo-doo in the cave, but then she didn’t. Not yet.

She took the charcoal out of her bra, reached down and drew pretty pictures of Marky and Sammy on the cellar wall, let the ponies out, and slammed the lid down hard.