Short story by Michael Botur
We have this routine, me and my man (well, he’s more of a boy than a man). Sam takes the car in the morning and drops JP at daycare, cause I don’t have my licence and couldn’t drive even if I did. Then he jumps on the motorway and hoons over to work; they usually stick him on demolition somewhere out south. Sammy only gets told by 0800Labour where he’s working at 6.15 every morning. The phone call’s what gets him out of bed, because Sammy stays up so late gaming that he’s always tired. Well, there are a couple extra steps – he tries to bang me after I’m already asleep, and I kick him out of bed, then he gets in a huff and plays games all night.
He gets the call and hauls his jacket and boots on in the dark, thudding his 110 kilo tower of muscle and blubber across the floorboards, then does a lap of the house, kissing JP’s cheek and the baby’s cheek and my cheek. The kids never wake up, but I do. I can’t sleep when we owe money, and we always owe money.
I wake and I have ten minutes to smoke on the patio in my nightshirt and knickers before Bubs wakes up. I think about our vacation to Timaru that’s coming up. Not the fanciest place, but all my rellies are down there, comfortable, chubby white people the shape of dog roll who have these lifelong jobs that give them money to spend on shit that doesn’t even need replacing, like new kitchens and new lounge suites. Every June when I take us down to Timaru, I tell everyone it’s to let the kids see snow. But it’s not that. I take us to Timaru so I can get free stuff. Into my suitcase, my rellies will sneak books, silverware, posters, vouchers, perfume, pantyhose, bras, essential oils – you name it. They buy new stuff they don’t need; they give away stuff they don’t have to give away. I have to pay an excess baggage fee at the airport, but I get like $1000 bucks of stuff and my flight’s only $250.
I wish I could stay in their comfortable large Timaru homes. It’s not as if Auckland notices us gone. Lose your gap in the rat race up here, the gap seals straight away.
So anyway, Sammy drives all morning and all evening to get his sixteen bucks an hour and JP goes to his creepy free daycare at Church Unlimited. All the driving, all the churchy shit, it sucks arse, but without it we wouldn’t eat. Me? I stay home and look after bubs. Occasionally on Dole Day, if there’s gas in the car, I can go to K-Mart after the kids are asleep and slowly cruise the aisles, stroking the shelves, dreaming. Samzy always leaves me ten bucks on the bank card and says I can buy whatever I want. I buy applesauce baby food with the cash so I can distract Bubs while I enjoy a simple sweet cigarette.
So we have our routine and life is going alright until Sammy comes home early and announces after dinner that he’s “going to take the train for a while.”
I drill him with my eyes til I’ve got to the core of the lie and the truth spurts out: he’s taking the train because the dumbarse shithead has lost his driver licence.
I begin by throwing the remote control at his face. His big fat hand darts out and catches it. I grab one of his graphic novels off the kitchen table and rip that up instead. It doesn’t cost as much to replace as the remote. He watches as I detach vintage Captain America’s head from his body and dump the paper guts on the floor.
After I’ve machine-gunned him with swear words and had an angry smoke Sam offers me a sesh and I roll my eyes and accept one, wiping the mouthpiece of the pipe extra hard to let him know his saliva isn’t gonna be touching mine for a while. Here’s what went down, Sam explains: he got pulled over on the motorway and instantly disqualified from driving on account of his demerit points – which he’s been racking up for a while, not that he told me. He won’t be able to drive for six months unless a lawyer gets the court to give him an exemption – and a lawyer costs $500, minimum. He was late for work because he stayed up late gaming – plus he got hooked on infomercials, the one about the lady who gets your driver licence back from court; the Spray & Walk Away one; the one for SingNet, that stupid irritating internet service provider run by Warren Singh, who we went to school with who became a bigshot in software, rubbing his success in our faces through the TV. After the infomercial, Sam found it even harder than before to sleep. He couldn’t stop scrolling Warren Singh’s timeline on Facebook – Warren at the Grand Prix in Dubai, Warren mountain biking in Hawaii, jetskiing in Monaco. Sammy – stoned, jealous, depressed – finally got to sleep at 3.30am.
The way his hands and lips hover, I can tell he’s about to add that he had to go to the couch because I wouldn’t put out, but he sees my face and stops.
I cry so hard the lounge goes all blurry. Then I lock myself in the bedroom for the night.
He shakes me awake some time later, at some deep spot in our blackness. The bed creaks as he sits. He’s lighting himself with his cellphone. A streak of white grin splits his face. His pink eyes are shining with excitement.
‘Staycation, that’s the answer,’ Sammy goes, shaking my shoulder. ‘Screw Timaru. A holiday in our heads. I’m honestly saving us a tonne of money.’
‘Til you get work closer to home.’
‘Work I don’t need to drive for. Correct.’
I roll over and squeeze the pillow around my head. Sammy plants his bum on the bed. I can tell he’s waiting for sex. He thinks he deserves a reward for his genius idea.
Next day, I wake a whole hour later than usual. Sammy is jiggling Bubs on his shoulder. JP is playing Minecraft on the X-Box 360. Sammy is proud of himself, baby in one hand, coffee in the other – a coffee he’s apparently been waiting to deliver me all morning.
I haul myself up, back against the wall. ‘I take it you’re not busing to work.’
‘Let the Staycation begin,’ he says, and winks, then returns to the lounge, where I can hear the couch cushions being pulled out and whumpf-ing on the floor. He’s building a fort.
That’s the first 1000 words.
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