We were walking along the road that runs parallel to Bicentennial Park. We were looking for something to do. Some trouble to get into. Looking for a story.
We were about twelve at that time, me, Haruki and Joe. I was waving a stick around and saying things like, ‘Yeah, but Mr Ritter has no idea what he’s talking about. I bet I know more about the Bible than he does,’ and then I saw a dead bird on the road up ahead. As we got nearer I had the idea to hit this bird with the stick. I wanted to see if it would fly apart or hold together. My friends didn’t like the idea. ‘Don’t.’ ‘Nah, c’mon.’ ‘Just leave it.’
But I gave it a good whack and it held together real good.
Next thing a car screeches to a halt beside us and a man in a singlet with greasy, curly hair leans out and shouts, ‘Oi, what’s going on here?’
I got filled with that special intense dread kids get when older people yell at them. That dread fills you right up to your chin and makes you blush, the only place you can look is the floor. ‘Nothing,’ I said.
‘Come here when I talk to you,’ he said and he opened his car door. I moved a couple of steps closer, still out of reach.
‘Come here I said,’ he said.
I moved a bit closer again, sort of paralysed and sort of caught in this tractor beam, not really sure what was going on.
‘How dare you hit that bird?’ he said. “Now come here.”
Something in me woke up and I yelled, ‘Go fuck yourself mate!’ and it was totally exhilarating because it was the first time I’d ever said mate and definitely the loudest I’d ever shouted a curse word. My friends were standing still, shocked. I ran up the hill behind me and I heard the car wheels screech and I knew he was coming after me.
I turned into the garden of a house that had one of those yellow safety stickers on the curb, don’t know if they still exist, and I put my finger over the door bell, unable to press it. I was worried there’d be trouble for the swearing.
I heard the car come purring up to the gate and he looked out the window at me and I said, ‘I’ll ring it.’
He dead-eyed me for a couple of seconds and then he said, ‘I’ll get you mate. I’m gonna get you.’