DOWNLOAD BUTTONI told my li’l lady we’d have to rescue the princess later, switched off Super Mario, put on a shirt with a collar, gave the wife a fifty to get some pizzas delivered and unplugged myself from the fams. The sky’d turned orange and all the shadows were stretching. The black shapes on the ground started to pool into night as I headed west in my work truck, chasing the last hour of sun.

The farm had a RD number and a milk jug for a mailbox. There was a good half a kay of gravel before a farmhouse popped out atcha. I bounced up and down. My windscreen turned brown. I could taste the dust. I stopped on some clean concrete on the edge of the forecourt, where someone was obviously pouring a bit of new driveway.

I was lookin for a big white fella with pythons for arms; I’d had a bit of a stare at his Facebook pics on my phone on the way over. A bloke lookin just like Pristina’s boyfriend was squirting Spray & Walk Away on the concrete and moving it around with a broom, yeah, that had to be him, ’specially them python-arms. He started doing somethin to the gate as I idled, there was a combination lock and a chain and he was chipping stray flecks of concrete off it. His hand clenched a spade. He stared at my vehicle. Sweat dribbled into his eye and he didn’t even blink. I slowed as I went over these planks of wood protecting the forecourt’s new concrete. His concrete pouring was not too shabby, I mean his fresh stuff wasn’t the same colour as the old concrete but there weren’t sticks and pinecones and feathers and shit sticking out of the ground like when I poured it myself that one time to save two hundred bucks.

Damn the bugger and damn his python-arms. Superior concreting skills, eh? Time would tell.

Their view was pretty choice, down the bottom of the hill was a sandy beach where the river went deep and green as it slowed to turn a corner. Me, hey, I’m not even a farmer, I deliver pipes for a living—tubing, tanks, joins, solids, you name it—but I’d’ve lived here if I could. Take my Princess back, put some babies up her, explain it to my wife and kids somehow. But yeah, they’d scored one of those deals where you live on the place, manage the stock and it saves you a shitload in rent. The farm was like if you took an ocean, froze it, and painted all the waves the colour of mud. Dark brown, almost black, and pitted and pocked from trampling hoofs. The grass’d obviously been chewed much too low; the cows wouldn’t be givin much milk. Stressful shit. Blake-arms Snake-arms would probly be in a dark mood. He’d be getting the sack soon if he didn’t keep his cows under control. You can be tall, and you can play league, but if you can’t curb ya cattle… Mate.

I’d been reading tonnes about Blake—too much, to be honest. Never met the guy, but I’d made this fake Facebook profile and friended him, you know how it goes, memorised all his Likes and Groups. I’d scoped his photos, too. Punching bag in the background: noted. When he killed a pig, he sharpened his own knives with butcher’s tools he keeps in the back of the ute: noted.

Pristina lookin unimpressed: noted.

I got outta my truck and Pristina came to the door. Pristina the princess, that’s her. She eyed me up, which was fair enough since I was eyeing the shit up out of her. Every ripply purple-black hair on her scalp had been pulled severely away from her face, like one of those smoked, dried mummified heads you see in old books about Ripley’s Believe it or Not. It made her blue eyes bulge and forced her face right out towards me, hard, fierce, confrontational—and fucking hot. Wood-coloured skin and blue eyes, my friend: a special breed.

She had painted her thick, sausagey lips this bubblegum pink. She’d developed cracks alongside her eyes, but the cracks just made her look crafted, developed, not in her prime, but fuckable. Still a little girl, though, don’t get me wrong—Princess Pristina’s short and when we used to fuck, I always felt like I was with someone I shouldn’t be. She was always five years younger, or I was five years older. She was in the back of this Hilux I wrote off, one time, trying to do a diagonal across a river. I wondered if her hands were still soft and cold, soft and cold, I’ll never forget that.

I titty-fucked her once, y’know.

‘Sup?’ I went to the woman holding the door frame.

‘Sup with you?

I chuckled and spat, then stepped on my spit and mashed it into the forecourt. Bit rude, doin that, I spose.

‘Want the tour?’ Blake went, lickin sweat off his top lip. He still wouldn’t wipe the shit dribbling into his eyes. So salt didn’t sting him, eh?

‘Blake. Good to meetcha.’ We crushed each other’s hands. A little noise squeaked out of my mouth. I shoulda worn a singlet, like Blake. He needed to see my triceps. I’ve got mean triceps.

‘Does The Famous Fraser want the tour or no?’

‘Infamous.’ I laughed. Blake snorted. He switched his folded arms, bottom to top.

Pristina scratched her back—an excuse to fold her own arms. She’d wrapped the shadow of the porch around herself like a cardigan. She disappeared back inside. Blake scraped his gumboots off on the doorstep and stepped into some jandals.

‘Chicken for tea,’ he went. ‘That was funny, by the way, sayin you’re infamous. She said you were funny. Yous were an item back in the day, she reckons.’

‘Four months,’ I went. Four years, more like—the no-strings-attached bangs, the times I sucked her neck in the taxi when our group was dispersing after a night on the piss. The time I got her to hold the frame of the shower so I could raise her waist high enough to push my dick so far into her I could almost feel her spine.

‘Four months, you reckon?’ He was working out how many times I’d banged Pristina. I could tell by this little flicker of his eyes.

‘Maybe three months.’

He showed me his New Holland Maestro—not a bad tractor, not bad at all—and where I could light a ciggie outside so the wind wouldn’t get me. He told me how many cows him and Princess had to milk every morning.

That’s what he called her: Princess. Just like I used to.

‘She’s pulling tits? Princess? I’da thought she’d be too worried about breakin a nail.’

A joke about pulling tits came into my mind, but I had to let it go till I figured out how staunch Blake was. I’d put, like, 40 bucks of gas in the tank to get here. If we were gonna have us a smackdown, I needed some hint of what to expect, a preview, a premonition. I’d taken ages to get here ’cause I’d turned the truck around to change into my league shorts so Blake could see my quadrilaterals, which are wide and square with thick yellow hairs. They’re my muscliest part. At jiu jitsu, I’d been picturing crushing Blake’s head inside my thighs.

‘So: you a Heineken man or a faggot?’

‘I brought a keg, actually, well, mini-keg, one of them ten litre ones, want me to grab it?’

‘I’ll do it,’ Blake went. ‘Yous catch up. Give us ya keys.’

He smacked across the forecourt in his jandals, flip-flop, flip-flop. I could see him reach into the back of my truck and get the mini-keg with one hand and heft it like a rugby ball, like he couldn’t even feel the 10kg weight, and gaze around the cab of my truck.

I found Princess in the kitchen. She shook some smokes out of a pack and pointed one at me. I shrugged and put it in my mouth. She tried to light it for me, her tits almost touching my chest, her short body not far from my dick. I turned away and lit it myself.

‘Well, well, well. Princess Cairns: all domesticated, eh.’

‘Princess Tudor now.’

‘I knew that… nah, I didn’t know that, to be honest. Damn. Blake Tudor… of course. Where’s ya ring?’

She showed me a photo on her phone. No ring on her finger, only in the photo.

The orange lino and beige curtains belonged in the 1970s. The couches were old. The kitchen was modern. It didn’t look like they were in control of the place.

‘So you guys are renting.’

‘We’ll never buy a house, probably. That’s us, broke for life.’

‘Broke together, though. Least you’re married.’

‘Wasn’t my idea.’

Princess did some sort of tour of the kitchen, pointing out tiles and serving trays and the spot without tiles where Blake’d buried the last male visitor, har-har. She didn’t look at me much and she kept her arms folded even as she drank and smoked. I could tell she was taking unnecessary steps to bring the marge and the onion dip out. She still had that sexy pout, that magnet field emanating from her pussy, and those tits were still there, it’s just that the tits were bigger and flatter. Somethin about her hips too. Wider, with a bit of flesh on them.

Four months I was with her, then we were booty-calling for a while, then I made sure I found my future/present wife, just to stick it to Princess Pristina, then we were friends for three years, and I only fucked her at that wedding, then we didn’t talk, then Facebook came along, now here we were: catching up for dinner at seven on a spring Saturday with the sun going down and a bit of smoky cloud climbing the hill and the valleys turning purple.

I should never’ve come. This was retarded.

Blake came in, pulled Princess’s ciggy out of her mouth and took a drag, eyeballing me. His skin had gone goose-pimply and he stank of burnt meat.

‘Got the barbie going. Chicken drumsticks, ribs, nibbles, steaks. Just ten minutes and we’ll be eating. So, Mr Pristina’s ex: you got kids?’

‘I do indeed. Twice-cursed.’

‘They lookin for farm work? I could use a hand.’

‘Ha. They payin you enough to take on labourers?’

‘Pay’s—’

Princess biffed her cigarette into the InSinkErator and switched it on. A chainsaw cut through the conversation. ‘PAY’S NOT THAT BAD,’ Princess said over the rattling, chopping InSinkErator, and turned and bent down and opened the oven and pulled out a tinfoil-covered tray.

‘That thing running properly?’ I went, ‘Sounds like a rusty chainsaw.’

‘Sit down. Blake hates talking bullshit. You seem nervous. Show me some photos.’

‘Of what?’

‘Your family and stuff. You got a dog? You used to love dogs.’

‘Fraser IS a dog, sniffin round here,’ Blake went, stepping back into his gummies and shutting the front door. I pretended I was reading a text and hadn’t heard him.

I took a chair at the dining table. The whole table was between me and Princess. I had to lean right across it to show her the pics on my phone. ‘Back in the day, we used to have actual photos eh, d’you remember? Like, paper photos. Or plastic. I dunno what they were made of…’

‘I like this one. Your baby. She looks cute, there. Looks heaps like you.’

‘That’s Janine. That li’l fella there, he’s Toby. Big muscles eh? Gets that from his old man.’

‘So who’s his old man?’ Princess tapped out another smoke and licked the golden tip.

‘Still a smartarse, I see. He’ll be playing league next year. This here’s my wi—’

‘Julietta. You went Brazilian.’

‘Ha ha, yeah, I got a Brazilian, the boys always go on about that. I do jiu jitsu, y’know. It’s real big in Brazil.’

‘The boys, you say. Mmm.’ Princess sipped some strong, stinky Coke out of her Holden glass. I could smell the alcohol from across the table. ‘Who you hanging with these days?

‘Aw… same old dudes from school, Glen and that. Play poker on Wednesdays. Hard to catch up ’cause of the kids.’

‘They thought you were a sad cunt for hanging out with your missus too much. That was when me and you were… you know.’ She looked away.

‘Just say it, if you want, Pristina.’

‘Ooooh, using real names now are we?’

I pushed back from the table, got up and scoped the view. The sky had squeezed all the daylight into a thin strip of caramel light dribblin down the hills.

‘Gets dark a bit slower these days. What’s Blake doing?’

‘Little barbecuing, little herd-moving. Takes him ages to move some of the juveniles. He’ll be out there for another five to ten. Not sure if he’ll eat with us. I think he’ll give the food another blast on his way back in. Sometimes the barbie doesn’t cook right. I’ve just gotta rip open a coleslaw. Bread’s sorted.’

Bzzzzzzzz brun brun brun, said the hills outside. Brun brun brun brun…

‘What’s Blake doin?’

‘Testing his chainsaw, probly. Sharpening his chainsaw links, I dunno. Tightening it? He loves that bloody chainsaw more than me.’

‘Zit a Echo or a Husqvarna? Or a Stihl? Or a InSinkErator, ha.’

‘What difference does it make?’

‘Epic difference,’ I went. ‘Anywho: what should we do till dinner?’

‘I’ll show you the master bedroom.’ She waggled a finger at me. I felt a little tingly pinch on the head of my dick. ‘C’mon.’

She led me down the hall. I watched her little shorts. There were pictures of kids and stuff on the wall but I hardly noticed. They musta been only a few inches, them shorts. Her arse cheeks were all squeezing out of the fabric like sausage meat squeezing out of a nice big sausage roll.

‘This here’s the master bedroom.’

The bed had one corner peeled back. It was inviting me and her into it.

In the half-lit hallway, Princess turned around to face me. She still only came up to my chin. All these ice crystals rose from my lungs and crowded my throat. My dick felt like it was someone else’s, all pins and needles.

‘I need you,’ she went, and tried to grab my hand.

I stepped back and turned to one side. I couldn’t crack a woody in front of her, didn’t matter if she’d seen my wang a million times. I was here to be a gentleman. ‘Where’s your bathroom? I gotta piss.’

‘FRASER. WE DON’T HAVE LONG. ARE YOU LISTENING TO—OI! FRASE!

I chose a door and popped inside what turned out to be a bathroom, thank fuck. As I locked the door, I heard her tutting and the click-and-suck sound of her lighting up. I hoped it was only weed, not crack or crystal. I stuck my nose near the door frame. Smelled like burnt oven cleaner. ‘I need to tell you something,’ she went. It sounded like her foot was tapping the carpet.

I splashed cold water on my face then turned the red tap on full blast and moved a child’s toothbrush outta the way. I dipped my fingers and got a shock. The pain helped steady me. I punished my face with cold water, and when my hands were frozen, I unbuckled my jeans, tugged my boxers down, spread my legs and grabbed my wang. It was like controlling a bucking bronco, but I won the battle within seconds. My wang spasmed, then shrivelled up like a balloon with a hole in it as I doused it.

I could feel the power seeping out of my shaft and back into my bloodstream and it was mostly gone by the time I flushed the toilet and unlocked the door. Princess wasn’t in the hallway smokin rocks any more.

I found everyone back in the dining room. Blake was at the table. There was a pile of steaming meat in front of him, some grey, some brown, some pink pieces, and a three litre bottle of barbecue sauce.

Blake pushed a Thomas the Tank Engine toy out of the way and reached for a glistening chicken nibble, crushed it in his jaws and spat bits of broken bone out. ‘What’ve yous been up to?’

I squeezed the ragged edge of a big hunk of meat and studied the juices. ‘These steaks are pretty big, man. Where’d you get ‘em from.’

‘He kills his own,’ Princess said, and took a slurp of booze. She didn’t look at her man, didn’t stroke his hand or rub his back. We were a triangle around the table, equally spaced.

‘Yeah what I do mate is I just rip right through with the Husqy. Loads more quicker than knives.’

‘A Husqy eh? Quality saw. You use a chainsaw on a carcass?’

‘Nothin beats homekill. Beef, pork, anything’s good. Just feels awesome to cut shit up. Maybe I’ll cut you up.’

‘Eh?’

Blake slurped his bourbon and coke. ‘I said Maybe I’ll cut you up, try to take my woman.’

‘EAT.’ Princess jabbed her knife at the meat. I took a chop and pulled the meat off the bone so I wouldn’t have to talk much. I kept my eyes down as much as poss.

Blake talked about food, mostly, like what’s the best pizza. There was almost a argument about Hot ‘n Spicy KFC versus Original Recipe. Turned out he was a Doggies fan and he trash-talked the Storm. Blake was also a Xbox man. He said I was a dumbarse for talkin about Playstation. I said Xbox was all good, same diff, and he snorted and put his sausage down and asked me if I wanted to settle it like a man.

‘Blake gets very serious about these things,’ Princess went, and poured more Jim Beam into her glass. First thing she’d said in ages. Dinner had been hella awkward, but one thing I appreciated was snatching glances at Princess while she ate. Guess that’s what I came for, to see a woman that sexy in the flesh, like y’know how Nigella Lawson’s like 70 but still a ten out of ten? Princess had this habit of tidying up her food before she ate it. She wouldn’t just cut the bone out of her chop, she’d cut a piece of meat off the bone then chop it into perfect squares. She chewed about twenty times before she swallowed. Any bits of meat that were irregular shapes, she pushed to the edge of her plate. She drank lots of bourb with each swallow. She dabbed her bright pink lips with a bit of newspaper. She kept spinning her box of ciggies.

‘GROUND CONTROL TO FRASER. YOU WITH US?’

‘Sorry, what?’

‘Think you can take me?’

My body went cold as my flesh hardened into concrete. I pushed my chair back.

‘Think you can take me, cunt?’

‘Scuse me?’

Call Of Duty. You said you played.’

‘Oh. Shit. Yeah, I mean… for real. Let’s go.’

He pointed at his dirty plate and I stacked it on mine (stupid, stupid) while Blake wiped his hands on his singlet. I watched his trics and biceps and pecs twitch as he did these small things. I scraped everyone’s offcuts and bones into the InSinkErator and squirted dishwashing liquid onto the plates and scrubbing them. The InSinkErator was loud and it made me jump, like Blake was behind me with his saw.

‘Chops real well, that thing does,’ Blake went. ‘Not as good as the Husqy, though.’ Blake walked lazily into the lounge, back to me, picking up a couple of remotes. ‘Hurry up, Homewrecker.’ He’d obviously spent most of the household budget on his entertainment system. The TV was one of the biggest I’d seen outside of a store. We stood in front of it. He went into a saved game. ‘Click Red then Down. You’re onto it. See that guy there, with the armour-piercing rounds? You’re him.’

The screen split in two for us. Blake got way ahead of me within seconds.

‘You do much else, when you’re not farming or whatever? Play for Colts or anything?’

Blake tipped the controller and lunged towards the TV and swore a few times. I noticed his eyes wincing and squinting. I noticed his knuckles going white. The controller was gonna break if he squeezed it any harder. He whooped my arse pretty good. We played Marvel Arcade and none of the characters did what I wanted them to. It was like I had oversized gloves on and I had to press the buttons about ten times to get a single result.

‘Don’t feel bad,’ Blake went.

‘I don’t,’ I lied.

He laughed so hard he had to take his smoke out of his mouth.

‘You’re being an asshole, Blake,’ Princess went. She’d been watching from the kitchen, and I’d been checking her out in the reflection of a painting of dolphins leaping under a full moon. Princess had the same body language as always: thighs crossed, left foot where the right foot should’ve been. Hands braced across her torso, touching her far armpit. Protected.

‘Play a girly game if you want,’ Blake said, and shrugged. ‘I got, let’s see… How bout FIFA World Cup 2008? That’s a faggy fuckin game.’

‘Funny.’

‘Wanna play tag? You run and I’ll tag ya.’

It was completely black outside, hardly even a moon. I wanted to be at home in bed, snuggled up in my Grand Theft Auto hoodie watching The Crowd Goes Wild.

‘I should probly cruise…’

‘Slow down, Usain Bolt. Don’t you have a marriage to wreck first?’

‘Come again?’

‘Thought you came over to try to steal my missus.’ His eyes never left the screen as he grabbed an enemy ’round the neck and twisted the person’s head off.

He paused the game and dropped the controller on the carpet. ‘We’re going for a ride. C’mon.’

‘What sorta ride?’

‘You’ll see when you get there. Been on a quad bike before?’

‘Sure I have. ’Cept it’s called an ATV, technically.’

‘What’s it stand for then, brainbox? What’s ATV stand for?’

‘I hope you’re joking, mate, it’s dark-as out here, and getting darker.’

Blake shrugged. ‘Join the other girl indoors, then.’

I followed him, even so, trying not to touch his waist as I sat on the cargo rack of the quad bike in pretty-much-blackness.

The quaddy revved just like a chainsaw—it was a Husqvarna quad bike, actually. Indistinguishable engine noise from a Husqvarna chainsaw, actually (or a rusty InSinkErator.) Fucking scary, me being all amped up, edgy, drugged, drunk off half a minikeg. Bzzzzzzzz brun brun brun

The cows had all kneeled down snugly under some trees together and here was us, going out into the cold. Blake was still in his singlet. I was positive he could hear my teeth jackhammering. I tried to keep my arms folded, but it was too wobbly. I had to cling to Blake’s warm stomach.

We only drove about 20 metres before Blake pulled up alongside a gate. It sucked major balls, having to sit behind him with my legs practically touching him. My hands were so near his arse. He leaned back, pressing them damn big wide shoulders against me. I smelled his neck. I could’ve given him hickies if I’d wanted to. He fished in his pocket and dug out a pipe. Still leaning back, he reached into his other pocket and pulled out a hunk of weed. He pushed it into his pipe and produced this fancy Zippo and sparked up while the engine grumbled.

Brun brun brun. Run run run.

I was just about to lean over his shoulder and desperately suck a toke when he laughed and went ‘Whatcha waitin for?!’ and sped off. I tumbled off the back of the bike. While he circled around a water trough, I noticed a calm, warm light inside the cow shed down the hill. I saw a couple cows crowding it, actually warm together. Amongst the cows, there were no guys trying to out-man each other.

Blake came back and picked me up. I still had to clutch his seat pad with muddy fingers.

‘No harm done,’ Blake went, ‘I’ll drop ya back if you’re not strong enough to hold on. Maybe it’s past your bedtime anyway.’

I didn’t wanna hug Blake again so I trudged down the hill. What the fuck was I doing slipping in mud at dusk on a freezing-arse night?

After ten seconds, I couldn’t hear Blake anymore. Sure was a massive farm. He musta been chasing a stray in some dark little gully somewhere.

I was about to scrape my shoes clean when I noticed the glow of Princess’ ciggie.

From the front door, where I could see lots of moths and hardly any Princess, she said something really out-of-it: ‘How much you bench these days?’

‘Two hundy,’ I lied.

‘Over your shoulders then, fireman’s lift, attaboy. Inside.’

Any excuse to grab her sounded good to me. A free root was what I’d come for. I hadn’t even hugged her the whole night. I grabbed her around the waist, took a sneaky sniff around her belt buckle. How much had I drunk? Eight bourbons and three litres of piss?

Her body fit into mine real nice. It was meant to be. Still, I tried to lower her. Where was I supposed to carry her? Blake’d be back any moment.

‘Bedroom’s down the hall,’ she went. ‘Hurry.’ I put her down but she wouldn’t let go. ‘How far’s your car? I packed a bag.’

‘It’s just in the—hey hey hey whoooa, hang on a tick: what’s all this?

‘Let’s go. I’ll grab Tina.’

All night—

‘Tryina tell me you didn’t come here to rescue me?

thinkin bout pluckin her

‘Why else did you come here?’

All night thinkin about plucking her and wrapping my arms around her waist and

‘To sit down with Blake and, y’know, decide—

‘What, decide whose property I am?’

‘Who the fuck’s Tina?!’

‘Yeah, like I fully wanted you to trip down memory lane with our lovely tour guide Blake.’ She stormed down the hallway toward her bedroom.

‘We missed each other’s wedding, I just thought…’

‘FYI, I’m not allowed out. Compute that.’ She tossed a backpack at me. A yellow cuff was spilling out of it, with a Banana in Pyjamas patch sewn onto it. I think I saw a nappy, too, with Peppa Pig on it.

She said she just had to sort Tina. She told me about the videos she’d been doing, to make a few extra bucks. I stood in the hall, watching the black mouth of the front door, praying Blake didn’t come back.

‘He makes you do pornos? For real? And you’ve got a little kid?’

‘If you and your perfect missus in your perfect family don’t make the odd experimental movie then yay for you guys. Where’s your keys? Do I look like I’m fucking joking? Where’s your keys? TINA! Time to go, sweetheart.’

‘This is buzzy. I need a smoke… I need to sit down.’

‘GRR.’ She tossed me my keys and a drink bottle with Spongebob on it. ‘You’re lucky you’re not in hospital right now. Move your arse.’

A door opened and a little trike squeaked into the hallway. A little alien swayed on the tricyle seat, rubbing its eyes: Tina.

A daughter. A little toddling baby girly-girl.

‘Teen, c’mon Teeny, we’re outta here. I’ll change you later. I got you a snack.’

Princess scooped the little girl up and kicked the trike away. I’d thought Princess fit perfectly into me, but nah: it was Tina that fit into Princess. Just the two of them. Perfect pieces combined. Tina’s legs squeezed Princess around the waist. The little girl was the piece missing from Princess.

Miniature heels fell off Tina’s feet, clunking as they hit the floorboards. Tina squinted and rubbed her face.

Blake got parole not that long ago, Princess was saying. He’s been trying really hard, she was saying, Some boys, you know, it’s just easier for them inside, you know he gets so mad about fixing the fences sometimes, she was saying, she was saying, I was checking my shoelaces, fiddling with my keys, she was saying, she was saying, Tina wa—

Tiny Tina was muttering things only her mum was understanding. They scurried across the black forecourt and put themselves in my car without even asking. They left the front door of the house wide open. I switched off lights as I scampered about. It was like a plug had been pulled out of the bath, and all the black water of the night was pouring into the house. A balaclava was pulled over the landscape.

I switched all lights in my truck off, even the door light. The moon had lit up a cloud. That was all the light I had to go on. It wasn’t right, Tina sitting on her mum’s lap without a seatbelt, but I had fat, scared fingers and my heart had gotten heavy and we had to move, we just had to.

The truck started on the first try.

‘Who’s gonna open the gate? Is that him?’

I could see this flickering little orange spark glowing and fading, glowing and fading. I couldn’t tell how far away it was.

We drove up to the gate. I went slowly, trying not to make any stones crunch.

‘What about daddy?’ said the little girl’s little mouth. Just a pale grey face in my black vehicle, no headlights, no interior. Each crunch under the tyres sounded like breaking bones. I looked in the rearview mirror. The yawning front door of the house was sucking me back. I thought of home. I needed my La-Z-Boy, needed my mini-fridge. Had I paused Super Mario 3000 or abandoned the game? Would my kids wake when I kissed their eyelashes?

We rolled up to the gate. Brrrrrn brun brun brun.

I counted the seconds as I hopped out of the car and fiddled with the gate. Six, seven, eight…

Combination lock.

Fuck.

‘COMBINATION! GIMME THE COMBINATION, PRISTINA!’

‘I don’t know! I’m sorry! I don’t know!’

I heard the revving, Brrrrrn brun brun brun. It sounded heaps like a chainsaw.