Authors: Hazel Edwards
âOK, Bark. Let's join the queue for the vet.'
âWoof,' says Bark and tries to lick my hand, but he still looks really bad.
When I get out, I see that my back wheel is in one parking space and the front wheel is in another, but I don't worry now. If Bark has to stay at the clinic, I might walk back to Gran's.
I struggle to carry him through the swing doors of the Animal Clinic.
The waiting room is full of waiting pets and matching owners. Hairy dogs and hairy men. Fluffy cats and fluffy owners. Bark and I don't match, but his blood is all over my top, and he's leaking red on the polished floor. I did put him on the sack but he's still messy, poor Bark.
âLooks like you'd better jump the queue,' says the receptionist, after I fill in the medical forms for Bark Kovacs. At least Bark knows his name.
âGood thing you brought him in,' says the vet with jeans under her white coat. âNeeds stitches. Better if I keep him here overnight. He'll be fine tomorrow and back to normal.'
I explain that he's Gran's dog and we'll have to sort out the bill later.
âThat's OK. I knowâ¦knew your gran. She has an account here. I gave Bark his shots. She said she wanted a female vet.'
âThat'd be right,' I say.
Then I walk home. Luke's dad will pick up the car later, once I tell him what happened. I know I've broken the law once. No Probationary plates. No Learner plates. No driving licence. Under age. Maybe I don't need to do it twice. I walk home.
âYou've got e-mail,' said Luke in a Dah-da-de daH!' voice.
It was just Gran's usual computer screen. But a big red bow was tied around it, from Gran's dancing veil.
âSoâ¦?' I untied the red veil. Luke's sense of humour was seriously different.
âIt's the same stuff Gran wrote on the finalthoughts.com e-mail for you. Only it's all there.' Luke was as excited as if he'd won a cyber prize. âI checked through her hard disk and found the back-up file.'
I read eagerly, skipping down to the new bit.
After you started asking me about your family history, I looked through Pa's photos. I decided to leave a special copy made to include everybody. To explain your past and Pa's. Kat also asked me when she had her last medical check. She wanted to know about Pa's blood group. I knew, then, she was beginning to ask questions too.
Kat is my daughter. Kat was worried that Tibor was her father. He wasn't. Janos is her father, and your grandfather, Zoe.
âAnd I scanned in those family photos at the end,' said Luke. âIs that OK? Borrowed them from your room.'
I looked at the two photos appearing at the bottom of the screen. Two Kovacs families. Some of the people were the same. Pa was in both photos and young Sandor had red hair too. Magda Number One was tiny and didn't look anything like my tall Gran. But Gran and Kat had big noses. Maybe I did have Gran's nose genes.
âThanks, Luke.' I didn't know what else to say.
âI reckon Gran should have left Bark a message on the pets bit of the finalthoughts.com. He can't read,' said Luke. âBut he can dig.'
Luke's dad had collected the car, and Bark, who was now back to normal, surprisingly.
Within two days, Bark had dug up most of Gran's yard, and even under Mrs Donna's fence. Now we could hear Mrs Donna's heavy breathing as the backdoor slammed behind her. âTake that dog for a
walk Zoe, or else I'llâ¦'
âOK, Mrs Donna,' we said quickly, just as Bruce also arrived.
âTake this, too. I found it stuck inside your gran's black vase.' Mrs Donna handed over a Madga Kovacs marriage certificate. âShe loved that vase, I know.'
Bruce checked the document. âGenuine. 1953. But not your gran's. Your grandfather meant to leave everything to your gran. But, legally, he was still married to the original Magda. This is their certificate. That's why, when Pa left everything to “his wife Madga”, the lawyer went searching for the original marriage certificate. Magda One died before your grandfather, so her son Sandor would inherit, and your gran felt she should sort things out.'
I showed Bruce the family photos. âD'you think she was going to scan these into the finalthoughts.com message?'
âMaybe. I had all the “bits” translated. Your gran did do things in a hurry at the end.
As far as I can work out, Sandor contacted her recently about getting his share of the house. Kat would get the other half because the original Magda died in 1963, before Janos, so his estate would be shared equally between his two children. Then the change in Hungarian law meant files and photos were released, naming your gran as a journalist and political informer, when she was involved with Tibor. Although the name was different, the photos showed the same woman. She could be recognised.'
Bark barked, loudly. Mrs Donna wasn't impressed. âWhen's Kat coming home to get the dog?'
âDo you think there's something valuable here?' asked Luke eagerly.
Bruce shook his head as he looked at the mess Bark had made. âNo, the dog is bored. Just needs a good walk. Although one new tenant's dog dug up money and jewellery the previous owner had buried in the backyard. Last I heard, he'd hired a front end loader to dig up the yard.'
âCould have borrowed Bark,' I said.
Bruce threw the leash at me. âWalkies. Now. Use it as hockey training.'
After running, I felt puffed, but better. I knew the rules for hockey and for dog training. Not like in family histories.
That afternoon Luke gave me a family history disk, which would have been helpful, except he said, âThought you'd have a nose for history.' My nose isn't a joke. Especially if it ever grows to the size of Gran's.
Luke rattled on. âIt's a do-it-yourself, fill-the-gap, family medical history program for your school assignment. Got the link from the Dead Persons' Society. They're a groovy site with a dancing skeleton, music, and their âgenis' are medical sleuths too. It's specially for blended families, like step-families where you have a few extra twigs and branches.'
My gran had turned into a shady lady. It was like she was several peopleâ¦like shadows. In the end, I just sort of let it go. I never knew who she really was.
âI'm still not sure which name was really Gran's,' I said to Luke as we munched our hot dogs.
âDoes it matter what label a person has in your family? Isn't it what they do and say that matters?' Luke said. âYour gran acted like your gran. Isn't that enough? Like your pa.'
Gran left a different kind of âwill'. Maybe I would belly dance just once.
That night, my bedroom door was shut. I opened it. The door was really heavy. How come? Something clanked against the door on the inside.
I pushed it wide open. Then I looked behind. Gran's portrait of me was hanging on the back of the door. It wobbled a bit. The family tree was on the other side. I ran my hand across the ex-sneaker hole. Invisible tape!
Thanks, Luke. Just wait until I get that yellow and purple âPuss the Wonder Cat ' tie made up for you! With computer bugs and viruses on it!
Going back to school the next day was a bit of a let-down. So many big family things had happened so fast in the past two weeks. And Mum would be coming home at the end of the season. She rang to tell me the date of the polar ship's return. Now I had to do the ordinary stuff like tests and science assignments and âlosing' or âfinding' a grandmother wasn't an excuse that Mr Noel accepted.
âYour science homework's late again, Zoe. Despite the extension I gave you. That means staying back for a detention tonight. Where's yours, Luke?'
Just then, Mr Noel's stack of marking slid off the edge of the desk, page by page.
âHad hockey training, Mr Noel.' Luke dived to save the falling sheets and handed them back to the teacher. âHere you are.'
âNo excuse.' Mr Noel was like that. âEven if you are a fast mover.'
Despite Luke e-mailing his âLost Sense of Humour' graphic which looked like a police missing person's poster with Mr Noel's face on it, Luke got a detention too.
I'm glad Mr Noel wasn't ever cloned or Luke and I would have had detentions forever.
Since we both ended up in an hour's detention that night, and we were starving, we nicked into Macca's on the way home. Luke reckons he'll get an afternoon shift there if he eats enough and they get to know his face. But I reckon it's just an excuse to eat junk food because he'll never fit training in with an eight-hour cooking shift. Or an excuse to see Jessica.
âTwo medium fries.'
The French fries were hot and I could smell the oil. Maccas was crowded with hamburger and caramel soft serve dessert junkies plus the usual after-school lot. Jessica was on the register and gave Luke an extra big bagful.
âHi Luke-Warm,' she said in a
friendly way. I must have suddenly been invisible. I looked back at Luke who went red. He doesn't like that name, but Jessica could say anything and he'd think it was brilliant. âHeard about the match against Street High B.'
âYeah,' said Luke. âWe didn't do as well as last time, when you played.'
âWhen are you playing them again?' Jessica moved a paper placemat onto the tray in one practised flick.
âI might be back on the team.'
Luke was trying to act casual, you could see that. âWhat about your job here? Thought you needed the money.'
âI do. But I miss hockey. And especially the guys in the team.'
The shift supervisor is hovering, so Jessica goes into her cash register manner.
âHow can I help you? What would you like to order? To eat here or take away?'
Satisfied the Macca robots are working, the supervisor moves away to check on the fried conveyor line which seems to have a traffic jam near the hot oily-smelling fryer.
âAny late afternoon shifts going, Jess?' asks Luke. You don't need to be a genius to work out that Luke thinks the âteam' means him, and that's who she's missing. Or so he likes to think.
Jessica shakes her head and her green ear-rings dangle.
âIsn't there a health and safety law, you can't work with food and wear jewellery?' I say quickly. âIn case your ears get dragged off in the machinery?'
Jessica shrugs. âDunno. I'm just on the register, not cooking out the back.'
âNo law against, “Do you want fried ears with that?” ' joked Luke.
Jessica looked blank.
âDo you want fries with that?' said Luke quickly. âThat's what you usually say to me.'
The queue behind us was growing. Luke grabs the freebie paper to read the sports results, but I think it is to cover up. Sometimes he's a real nerd and I even feel sorry for him. We find a table down the back, near the kids' birthday room. Not a good choice because about a million five-year-olds are screaming in there and the birthday kid is throwing up.
âHave a chip, Luke,' I offer. âOr do you want fried ears with that?'
Quickly he looks up, glances at the birthday kid and then puts the chip down. âThanks, Zoe.'
âWhich laws would you break for her?'
âIf it was wartime, and she was your girlfriend, would you expect her to help you?'
Luke looked gobstruck. âShe's not my girlfriend.'
âOK. Well, if you had a girlfriend, and there was a law you didn't agree withâ¦and she wanted you to break it for some reason.'
âWhat sort of law?' Luke stopped with a long chip halfway to his lips. âI mean I might take something, or NOT do something but I wouldn't kill anyone. It would depend on how stuck I was on her.'
âMy gran did it for her boyfriend. I broke the law when I drove Bark to the vet.'
âDad said that was a pretty stupid thing to do. You could just have rung him instead.'
I felt my face going red. âWould you do it for me?'
âDo what? Help you break the law? Or help you because you'd broken the law? Or ask you to do something I thought was right, but there was a law against it?'
âI mightn't see it that way. I might think the law was dumb. Like not being able to go to certain places because you're under age or having to be seventeen before you can drive with L plates.'
âThis is not about L plates. This is about your gran, isn't it?'
âDifferent time. Different place. Wartime is different to peace time.'
âAnd different people.'
âYour gran had lots of secrets.'
âYeah. Trouble is, I don't know what I don't know.'
âDoes it matter?'
âYes. It does. She left lots of unanswered questions. And I don't know whether she did it deliberately or because she got sick at the end.'
âWhy don't you e-mail her?'
I looked at Luke. âYou're joking!'
He blushed. âYeah, I know she's dead and can't answer. I'm not stupid. But writing it out might make you feel better.'
âAnd so how am I going to get an answer to my e-mail? Apart from it bouncing back?'
â e-mail gran.com. Erâ¦ Joke.'
Sometimes I remember why the others call him Luke Warm. The birthday kid who'd thrown up over the cake was being face-washered by its mother and I wondered if mums love their kids ALL the time. Luke's mum still loved him. Number one fan in the Luke fan club. Even when he got things wrong.
âYou could file it in draft. And never send it.' Luke shifted so he couldn't see the birthday kids.
Well I wasn't doing a mass mail-out to every gran in the world.
Maybe e-mailing my unanswered questions wasn't such a dumb idea. They could travel cyber-space instead of going round and round in my head. At least I'd get them out there.