Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Return of the Mother

I haven’t had much to do with The Mother lately.

Not since I rescued F from children’s party detention for saying the word ‘idiot’. That was a week after she told me that F wasn’t allowed to play with her children ‘until further notice’ because her son had thrown a tantrum after lending F his bike and then changing his mind.

At the beginning of this school holidays, my ex asked The Mother about arranging for the boys to play together.
‘I’ll talk to Ariel about it’ she told him.
The next day, at Auskick, neither of us spoke to nor looked at each other. The boys didn’t play together during the school holidays.

So, imagine my surprise when the phone rang this afternoon and The Mother was at the other end.
‘Hi!’ she chirped. ‘It’s [The Mother]!’
‘Oh.’ My stomach dropped. Somehow, I knew this wasn’t about calling an end to ‘further notice’ and inviting F over for cheese on toast.

‘WELL, I’ve had the WORST day!’ she wailed, her tone dropping from terminally perky to tragic in one quick beat. ‘It’s been a bad time, really. I’m sorry to call you like this. The dog has been eating all the plants in the garden and I had an electrician, and I called him and then he had to call me back and then I missed him and he didn’t leave a message and then I had to call that number, you know, where it tells you the last number dialled, and it was him, so I called him back and then he wasn’t there.’
‘And anyway, now I’ve reached him and he’s coming. And THE BOYS! Oh, A just kept going ON at me in the background and he wouldn’t STOP while I was trying to talk to him and it was AWFUL.’
‘Oh dear.’ I am mystified and growingly alarmed at the reason for the call. ‘Well, um, they do tend to go on when they know you’re busy.’
‘Oh, I don’t think he knew I was busy. He was just shouting at me from upstairs. It was terrible. And then Kujo has been so bad this week, really, so bad, he’s been ripping up the garden and he ate my plant that I bought. And it’s so cold, isn’t it. Are you cold?’
‘Um, yes, it is a terrible day.’
‘It’s just been LIKE that. Terrible. And the reason for my call, oh, that’s terrible too.’

I am imagining that F has beaten up one of her children. That he has taught them new swear words. That he has exposed himself in the playground. At the very least, that he’s given them Andy Griffiths books to take home.

‘W went on and ON at me when I went to pick him up from school tonight. He was very upset. He said that F had TAKEN all of his Tazos, that he’d snatched them and run off and wouldn’t give them back. He INSISTED that we find F and get them back, but there was so much going on, and I couldn’t find him. So.’

This was not good. In playground currency, Tazos are gold. If W was right, F is behaving like a thug. All The Mother’s worst fantasies about F are coming true. Which is why she’s on the phone. I detect a smug undertone to the surface wailing. I don’t even remember, to my shame, if I apologised at this point. All I could think was: ‘here we go again’.
“Shall I give you a name of the Tazos he is missing?’ she continued. ‘I’ll tell you what they are. Are you ready?’
‘Well, F isn’t here right now. He’s with his stepmother. But okay, tell me and I’ll call him there and make sure he brings them to school tomorrow.’

She tells me the Tazos, consulting with the boys along the way. There are nine of them.
‘So, which team do you go for again?’ she asks, mid-list.
‘I don’t have a team.’
‘Oh. Okay.’
‘So, what exactly happened?’
‘F snatched them from W and ran off with them. Hold on, I’ll ask him. Would you like to speak to him?’
‘Okay.’ I hold the line.

A small voice pipes up, somewhat nervously.
‘Hello W. So, what happened?’
‘Um.’ He pauses. ‘Um. Do you know, I actually can’t remember if F took them from me or if we had a deal to borrow them and give them back.’
He repeats himself.
‘You don’t remember?’
‘Right. Goodbye, W.’

The Mother comes back on the line.
‘Oh,’ she says. ‘Did you hear that?’
‘I did.’
‘Maybe F will have a, um, a better memory of what happened.’
‘I’m sure he will. Okay, well I’d better go.’
‘Oh no, how are you anyway? Is your heater about to overload with the cold?’

I make forced chit-chat for a few minutes, rage boiling below the surface. I want to kill her and her stupid lying dobbing children.

I ring F’s stepmother. I tell her I’ve had a complaint from a mother at school about F taking cards, and that it seems he hasn’t, but I need to read him a list and make sure he brings them to school.
‘Was it [The Mother]?’ she asks.
‘Yes,’ I says, surprised. ‘How did you know? Have you had trouble with her?’
‘Oh, no. But I know you have.’
‘She is really odd, though.’
‘Yes. She is.’

Long story short: you’ll be unsurprised to hear that F and W had a deal to consolidate their Tazos and share them, taking turns to bring them home.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Testosterone Army


Something very bizarre and quite scary just happened to me.

I was walking home from the park, where I’d taken the dogs for a walk.

I was feeling good: iPod in my back pocket, headphones hooked over my ears, scarf swinging from my neck as I power-walked my way through the falling darkness. The dogs trotting at my heels.

Crossing the main road to reach my street, a battered steel-blue car rolled across my path, drawing to a swaggering halt just over the pedestrian crossing. Smoke spluttered from the front as well as the back of the car, giving it the appearance of floating on a dirty grey cloud. The elbows of the twenty-something men in the car were jutting from the open windows.

As I gingerly walked around the car, I shot the men a dirty look. As I met their eyes, they nodded at me, as if to say ‘hey, nothing personal’.

Continuing on down the footpath, I noticed another carload of similarly aged men. Scruffy around the edges men. Some of them were inside the car, others were crowding around it, leaning on the roof, looking in, talking earnestly.

The steel blue car roared around the corner and on down the road. The men leapt into the car and roared off after it. A few steps on: another carload, another similarly battered car, another group of earnest men. A big man in a flannelette shirt approached the car and began bashing on the door, yelling. Another man flew out and ran past me, just a few metres away, directly across my path – heading for the Yarraville Oval. The big man followed, brandishing his fists, followed by the rest of the men in the car.

I was frozen to the spot, dogs uncharacteristically still at my ankle, not sure what to do or where to go. Behind me, in the dimming light, kids F’s age and older were whizzing back and forth on scooters on the skate ramp. F played there at this time nearly every night last week.

I walked on.

Implausibly, another carload screeched to a halt just in front of me, its passengers spilling out in an angry army of blue denim and testosterone. I could hear the shouting over the Brit-Pop feeding from my iPod to my ears. This time, I kept walking, eyes focused ahead, not looking directly at anyone or anything. For a few moments that felt much longer, the angry men were facing each other off on either side of me and the dogs. As I walked, they rushed at me – but really at each other – meeting in a tussle at my back as, like the Ever-Ready Bunny, I kept going and going, until I reached home.

I am really, really glad that F was at his dad’s tonight.


I told the Husband about all this on the phone when I got home and he shed some light on events. He recalled that there was a house next to the oval and the skate ramp where carloads of denim-clad gangs used to hang out.

'Oh' I said. 'So, that would be the house that burnt to the ground the other week.' The one that was left as a charcoal shell. The one with bizarre padlocks on the gates, despite the fact that there seems to be NOTHING THERE to lock up. The one that had police tape all over the front fences after the fire.

I'm guessing the fight might have had something to do with the fire the police were investigating. Never a dull moment!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Back in the saddle (almost)

Thanks to all those who commented on my last, rather dramatic-sounding, post.

Apologies for the delayed response. Since then I've moved house (two days after F's surprise diagnosis) and have been feeling pretty damned exhausted and (to be dramatic again) emotionally drained. There have been no words left.

I am okay though.

Despite the fact that The Husband is scheduled to fly to London tomorrow, as they're predicting an imminent terrorist attack. Oh joy.

Oh, and in response to the delightful Miss Tartan's query, my email address is jabberwockyblog@hotmail.com.