My fire boy’s face is shaped by clumped clay in the 3D prints his mother hung on the feature wall above the television. He’s a three-year-old boy and heavy enough to hurt when he leaps up onto my lap and squeals in his whistle-high voice, ‘Daddy Pirate! There’s a booger in my nose!’
I squash the clear nostril closed, put my lips up to the squishy stub of his nose and suck out the oily cluster. The tangy blob sinks slowly along the side of my throat and congeals to a stop in the centre of my chest. Fire Boy winces and slaps my cheek to get free and his skin is soft as silken sponge-cake and he smells like soapy sweat.
‘Old McDonald had a bum! E-I-E-I bum!’ He sings and slips from me down to the floor, blonde hair like a damp mop on his cantaloupe head. ‘You’ve got your mother’s hands,’ I say and he gives me a flash of his thunder-bolt-blue eyes before running off into the kitchen.
The Prime Minister is on the television, standing before a Christmas tree, but the sound is down and his teeth are cuts of steel cemented in his mouth.
Across the room, my son climbs up on the kitchen bench and peeks under the closed blinds to watch the grey morning rain slop onto the roof of a car yard across the Princes Highway and on Facebook everyone is tagging ‘illridewithyou’ in the wake of the siege in Sydney. A distant cousin with pale skin has posted ‘What in the FUCK has this world come to!’
On the telly, a few seconds of the gunman go around on a loop. He scuttles sideways like a crab with a human shield and a black backpack for a shell. A scarf inscribed with a language-other-than-English is wrapped around his head. If the television were unmute, the newscaster would tell me that the script says, ‘We sacrifice ourselves for God’, and because I cannot deny it, I don’t want to hear it said aloud.
When my boy was born I went down to the beach to smoke a cigar but I didn’t know how, and the sands were over-crowded. People started pointing off into the sea. Two whales, a mother and her calf, bobbed up on the surface and the white sun slicked their tails as everyone watched from the shore or knee deep in the cold water.
Those poor mammals! I felt like crying, they seemed so helpless in the wideness full of teeming terrors. How does the mother whale care for its baby under all the weight of the endless white and black waves, I wondered to the unlit cigar.
‘I love you daddy, on Triple J!’ The fire boy says, still facing the grey rain.
His mother’s cats are behind the television, sitting beneath the framed 3D scans, watching dust and dirt fall from a hole in the ceiling, where, somehow, a sparrow has made its nest, and the shrill sound of its chick sparks inside my skull like the blooming seed of an aneurism.