Authors: Hazel Edwards
âMy dad died when I was twenty. Twenty might seem adult enough, but he's still your father. I felt empty inside for years. My family believes in an after-life and it's a bit easier if you believe that, because everything is taken care of for you.'
âYou mean like going to heaven and stuff.'
She smiled. âMy father believed in that. I don't. I think this life here is all you've got. So you have to just do what you can to help others now. It's not like you can put in deposits in the bank of life to be drawn out later in heaven. It's a cash-in-hand economy here.'
I smiled. Anyone could tell Luke's mum was self-employed.
âNo courier services to heaven then?'
âNo. Not even a franchise. Here, take the end of this.'
She held out the doona cover, checking the inside corners for stray socks. Until I lived in the Warne household, I didn't know that stray socks hid in doona cover corners.
âGet to hockey training, even if you're feeling down about your gran. Exercise helps. Some people snack on chocolate, but then you get tired again later. Music helps for going to sleep Saves you from your thoughts going around in circles. Laughter helps. Even if you just watch a funny movie on TV.
?' I suggested. âLuke loves that.'
His mum smiled.
âGo and weed my herb garden and just smell the flowers. That helps, too.'
âIs that why people bring flowers to the funeral?' I asked, remembering my earlier thought of only the florists benefiting if the dead person couldn't smell the flowers.
âProbably. Colour too. That's why they bury people in garden cemeteries I suppose.'
signs,' I said, before I could stop myself.
âReally?' Luke's mum stopped folding. A small smile trembled around her lips. âWorse than the
signs where they really mean
, or the
DOOR IS ALARMED
signs in the high-rise.'
We laughed together and for a moment, I felt a little better.
âDon't expect to be the perfect granddaughter.'
âI'm not. I'm just the only one. Unless there are others I don't know about yet.'
âMaybe your gran wasn't the perfect woman but that's OK, too. You loved her as she was. I'm sure Luke thinks I'm a horrible mother when I insist onâ¦'
âTraining â¦ and cleaning his sports shoes.'
âYes, that's right. Do something for someone else rather than thinking about how you feel. Take a mini-breakâ¦'
I told her about Fortuna and the belly dancing.
âWould you like to show me the veil?' She sounded genuinely interested.
âNo.' I wasn't ready for that yet. Talking to Luke's mum had made things a bit more ordinary, but she was still his mum. I didn't want to let go too much.
âNow, any more dirty clothes?' The washing machine filled with water. âThink about one little thing you can change for the better. And do that, however small.'
In the shower, steam clouds rose and the water hit me like hot needles. My naked body was carrying things from my mother and my grandmother but which things I got in the genetic lottery was a bit of a mystery to me and to them. The good genes or the bad ones? If I'd had a brother or sister, maybe we would have looked similar or maybe we would have been very different. I'll never know. Do people have children out of curiosity to find out whether they'll repeat themselves? Like clones. In science one day Mr Noel talked about cloning. I think Mr Noel would like to have hundreds of Mr Noels around. No way. Lines and lines of science teachers handing out detentions for late homework. Forget it.
I turn the water full on and the needles of heat hit my face. Water runs off my nose and down my body.
I must be carrying things from my father too. I wish I'd got his ânose' genes.
To stop Bark digging, and as a warm-up for our hockey that next afternoon, Luke and I took Bark for a jog. Afterwards we filled in a few more of the dog holes. When we put the spade back in the shed, Luke found the photocopied will on a shelf.
âThe last will and testament ofâ¦ohâ¦It's not your gran's. And it's a photocopy, not the original. Muddy fingerprints on it.'
âLet me see,' I grabbed the will, scared that I'd find another name or personality. Quickly I read, Janos Kovacsâ¦ âOh it's Pa's will. Everything is left “to my wife Magda”. Do you reckon he meant the first Madga or Gran?'
Luke said slowly, âMore than one search for a Magda Kovacs showed up on Red Cross computer records. I checked last night. One was about a year ago, and the other more recently.'
âAnd Sandor. That guy with the accent on the answer-phone. The boy Gran put into the enhanced photo? Maybe he's Pa's sonâ¦the one mentioned in the footy program.' Luke went a bit red. âThat would make him your uncle. Wouldn't it?'
âDunno.' For a nano-second, I liked the idea of having an uncle and Mum would like having a sort of brother. Then I began to think about Gran's complicated life. Was Sandor trying to find his real mother's replacement or her killer? Or was he just trying to find out who he was, like me?
âWhy don't you ring old Bruce? Better ask the Expert,' suggested Luke. âUnless he's tied up. Joke. Joke. Get it. The tie.'
That didn't seem funny. I found the Trustee's business card and dialled Bruce's mobile. Gran's phone bills would show out-going calls after her death, but I guess the Trustee would pay the bill.
âThought you were going to tell me you'd found your gran's will, Zoe. Not the old photocopy of your grandfather's. Guess I'd better come over. Has that dog dug anything else up?' Bruce was cheerful, as if he
his clients, but then I remembered that most of his were dead so he didn't get many calls. I was a novelty.
âNo, it's OK.' I told him about Luke's Red Cross search, because I was a bit worried my gran might have âgot rid of' Magda Number One. Bruce's answer went on a bit about false papers and wartime and all the stuff Fortuna said, so it must have been true, and he was
helpful. âOnce you lie, you have to keep going! Especially if you are afraid of getting into trouble with government. Listen, Zoe, if you've found anything else important, like your gran's will, or “a box of bits”, I should have a look. I'll be over in ten minutes.'
âNothing important.' I hung up, left with more questions, but hoping he wouldn't come.
He was talking about my gran here, not some international crim. Mr Family History Expert Geni could get it wrongâ¦ Couldn't he? Janos was already in Melbourne, for the 1956 Olympic Games. She came out to join him. So Gran must have travelled out under Magda's papers. What had happened to the real Madga then?
Ten minutes later, Bruce turned up. But we couldn't find Gran's will anywhere, so I gave him the â
NOT TO BE OPENED UNTIL
' package. And then I had to go to hockey training, so I didn't have time to talk more.
Maybe I was running away too. Well, I did a lot of running at hockey training and was pretty puffed at the end.
Bark was whining, in a seriously hurt sort of way. He'd got his leg caught through the fence and he was bleeding badly. The cut was jagged and serious.
âMrs Donna!' I yelled.
But she wasn't home. Not that she would have been able to bend over and help pull him out. There was only me. So I tried, but I didn't want to make it worse for him.
His tag wagged feebly. I patted him and then I pulled and got the leg through the palings. His eyes followed me and he whimpered. What else could I do?
His leg was free now but he looked a mess. I was OK with putting on band-aids but he needed more than that. And I was here alone.
Gran used to have a wheelbarrow in the shed. Maybe I could use that to take him to the vet in the next block?
âStay, Bark.' Not that he could do anything else. I ran and checked in the shed.
No, the wheelbarrow had gone. Some neighbour must have borrowed it, permanently. I couldn't carry Bark; he was too heavy and bleeding a lot. How else could I get him to the vet?
You have to keep patients warm. I remember that from first aid.
I grabbed an old sack from the garage and that's when I thought of driving him.
Gran's car was still in the garage, so I took the car keys from the rubbish drawer, opened the front car door and slid into the driver's seat. Would I remember enough?
At least it had been backed into the garage and was now facing outwards, towards the road.
I was under age. I wasn't allowed to drive on the road with L plates or even P plates.
But I could drive. Mum taught me when we lived on that run-down farm in the hills for a while two years ago. I was only thirteen then. I think she was scared that if something happened to her, I'd need to go for help. So she taught me about the brake first and then the accelerator. Steering came later. So I used to creep along the farm tracks, and then I'd do kangaroo hops. It was easier making mistakes on your own than having a whole class watching. Later, I got faster at corners and turns.
But I ended up good at backing out because I had to learn how to do it with the farm-trailer on because we were farm-sitting and our jobs were instead of the rent. Then I'd practise on the farm tracks, which was OK and legal as long as I didn't go on the outside road.
âAawwwâ¦barkâ¦' Bark sounded worse.
âQuiet, Bark. I'm coming.'
Mrs Donna wasn't there. No one was home at the neighbours' on the other side. There was no one to help. Just me. I wasn't being brave. There was no choice if Bark was to live.
I half-carried, half-hauled Bark into the back seat. The blood seeped through onto the fabric. I didn't think he'd be so heavy. I was scared he'd die on me. I couldn't lose anyone else.
What if I drove to the vet? Would I get arrested? Bark was a good dog and the last link with Gran.
I was going to drive him to the vet. Even if I was breaking the law. I ran down to open the double gates over the drive, which were kept shut to keep Bark inside.
The next ten minutes seemed like hours. I put the seat belt around Bark. And I put the driver's seat belt around me, just in case we pranged on the highway.
I put the ignition key in. I started the engine. Turning around, I checked on Bark.
âHang in there, Bark. I'll get you to the vet.'
I took off the hand brake and the car moved slowly down the drive. Scared, I hit the brake, and the car jerked to a stop level with the front gateway. I just scraped the paint.
I knew where the Bent Street Animal Clinic was. Two streets away. I could do all left turns.
Gran's car had never moved so slowly. I crept to the edge of the road, and waited. If I waited until there were no cars, then I could creep along in the inside lane until I turned left at Bent Street. No traffic lights. I just hoped there were no police cars or anyone trying to overtake me. Bent Street Clinic had a big visitors' parking area and I should be able to park off the road.
âAhhh.' Bark let out a little moan.
âHold on, Bark. We're going.' My foot pushed on the accelerator. I tried to sit up tall, so anyone would think I was adult or at least much older than fifteen. The car lurched forward and with a left turn of the steering wheel, I was onto the road.
âOh, no!' I glanced up into the rear vision mirror and saw a red car coming up fast behind me. It looked like it should be on a motor racing circuit. If I go faster, it might follow. If I go slower, it might swing out and pass.
Red Racer comes so close he disappears below my rear vision, I think we'll touch, then he swings out and revs past me.
The corner is coming up fast. Other cars are passing in the two other lanes. I flick on the left indicator. The windscreen wipers start.
Wrong switch. At least the windscreen water doesn't spray.
I can read the Bent Street sign on my left. Turning here is different from swinging around in the farm paddock. I turn the steering wheel. Good thing there's no car behind me now. But there's one parked in front, on the inside lane. I'm going to have to stop.
I mean to stop two car lengths behind, but I'm much closer. Other cars are whizzing past in the lane which I'm going to have to move into.
Why didn't I just carry Bark?
I hit the brake and the car stops. If I keep my foot on, my brake lights should show red. I hope no one crashes up the back of Gran's car while we're sitting here waiting for a space in the lane alongside.
I check my side mirror. A grey car and then nothing behind that. I flick on the right indicator. I start Gran's car, and swing out, just in time to avoid collecting the side of the parked car.
There's an emergency light on the Animal Clinic. They must know how hard it is for new drivers to watch the road, think which bits to move and also look for the house number they need. Then I notice white painted numbers on the kerb.
I flick down the left turn indicator. I'm heading for the drive of the Animal Clinic. Inside I can see a parking lot with many narrow spaces. Instead of Gran's car, it would have been easier with Mrs Donna's tiny car.
Mentally, I cross Driving Instruction off my work experience list of jobs. No way.
My first piece of really good luck. There are four empty spaces in a row. I should be able to fit in there. I park Gran's car.
âBrilliant driving,' I tell myself, turning around to check on the dog on the back seat..