I've just arrived home from the airport, from three weeks in Adelaide. I am newly entranced by my house full of books and the train station and supermarket down the road. I can walk five minutes and go out for dinner! At my choice of places! I am so lucky.
The Husband and I walk out of the front gate into the fading evening light. The street is bathed in a golden summer glow. All is well with the world.
My neighbour is polishing his car.
'Hi!' he says. 'Happy new year!'
I tell him that F is with his dad this week but will be back after that and will have plenty of time to play with Boy Next Door. I give him F's dad's mobile number and tell him that I know he's eager to get the boys together.
'Oh good,' says my neighbour. 'BND has been dying to see him. He's been taping episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh especially for him.'
There are deep dents in the roof of my neighbour's car. They are new. So is the car. Apparently, it happened just last night. Someone has been jumping on the car.
'Look, footprints.' And there are. Dusty white footprints. 'Apparently it's a new trend,' he says. 'Kids jumping on cars.'
I bought F walkie-talkies for Christmas and forgot to give them to him. They're on the top shelf of my bedroom cupboard; the one that's so high I can only reach it if I jump a little. In Adelaide, when I remembered that I'd forgotten them, I told him about them.
'Oh YEAH' he said. 'I know about them. Me and Boy Next Door [BND] saw them. Cool!'
'You saw them?'
I did leave them on the couch for a few hours back when I bought them, but I thought I got away with it. Stupid me.
The boys were very excited when I installed batteries in the walkie-talkies and presented them to them. I had this vision of the boys chatting to each other in their bedrooms, like some eighties movie. (I don't know which one.) I thought it would be very cool and retro. (Of course, I would never give F a mobile phone, to pretty much do the same thing.)
'You'll have to make a time to call each other in the morning' I told F and BND.
'Well, you can't just call each other, because you won't know when each other have turned your walkie-talkies on. But, if you make a time to do it, you can both turn them on then.'
'So, when do you wake up?' I ask. 'F wakes up around 7.30am.'
'Five! I'll call you at 5am!'
'OKAY!' says F.
'NO!' I say. 'You can't do that. He wakes up at 7.30am. Call him then.'
'Okay, I'll call him at 6. I'll be watching cartoons by then, definitely.'
'No. He won't be awake then.'
'I'll wake him up.'
'You can't,' I say, suddenly inspired. 'You see, you can't talk to him untl his walkie-talkie is turned on. And he can't turn it on until he wakes up. And he won't just wake up before 7.30am.'
'Oh.' BND thinks for a minute. 'I'll call you at 7.30am then.'
The next day, they forget to call each other at 7.30am. They plan to try again the next day. That day, after lunch, I am in my bedroom, they are in the lounge room. I hear them talking.
'Were you up at 7.30am?' asks BND.
'Ahhh.' BND sounds thrown. 'Well, I guess you're wondering why I didn't call you.'
'Um ... ye-es, I was.'
'Well,' says BND. 'I didn't call you BECAUSE ... I didn't think you'd be up.'
'Oh, well, I was.'
'Okay. Well, we'll do it tomorrow.'
We get home at about 11.30am. There is a police van parked outside our house. And a police car parked in front of it. We speculate on what they are doing there. Perhaps the van is keeping watch to see if teenage (we presume) hoons will trample the rooves of my neighbours' cars tonight? It seems an elaborate outlay of police resources.
We go straight to bed, where we lie awake, listening for clues. We hear our neighbour, the one whose child plays with F, talking to a couple of unknown male voices on the street. The Husband goes outside. He is gone for what seems like an eternity.
'Did they catch someone?' I ask.
'They've got one of them.'
But this time, it's not teenagers jumping on car rooves. Two burglars have been on the loose, running through backyards in the area. They seem to have robbed a house further down the street.
The police have asked The Husband to check our backyard. He does. No one is there. There's no sign anyone was there. Our notoriously yappy dogs probably kept them away.
As we turn out the lights, we hear the police vehicles drive away.
The next day, we hear that there were helicopters overhead and sniffer dogs on the ground, shortly before we arrived.
I'm walking down the street; my street. On my way to dinner and a movie with he Husband, who is back in the house finding the DVD we plan to return on the way. Our logic is that if I walk ahead and he runs to catch up with me when he's done; timing-wise, it's as if he left the house with me.
As I pass our front fence, my next-door neighbour unhooks his gate. There's no escaping the fact that our paths are about to intersect, so I wave. He squints, frowns, and raises an arm half-heartedly. Vaguely relieved, I quicken my pace.
'Hello!' comes a voice at my elbow. It's him.
'I didn't recognise you at first. All in black.' He looks me up and down. 'On your way to A FUNERAL?'
'Um, no. Just dressing like a Melburnian.'
'So, where do you normally live?'
'Sorry?' I've lived next door to him for six months. As he well knows.
'You know. Where are you from, then?'
It's easier to reply to this than explain what I meant about dressing like a Melburnian. This is a man who changed his gym because of all the homosexuals who'd started coming to his. I guess wearing all-black is pretty out there and disturbing for him.
'I'm from Adelaide.'
'Ah, Adelaide. I was in the army there.'
We're talking about police helicopters when The Husband arrives at my side. He has, oddly, never met our neighbour. Maybe because he has never accompanied F next door to fetch the footy. He extends his hand and introduces himself.
'Hello' says my neighbour. 'You know, when you go out, you might want to get some of those automated lights that switch on and off. We've got them.'
This is the first thing my neighbour ever said to me when he first met me, six months ago. He has repeated it many times since. He's even told me where I can buy them.
'Oh' says The Husband. 'Really?'
We have 25 minutes between dropping off the DVD and our movie starting. We order rice paper rolls from our favourite take-away, a Cambodian restaurant with an eating space roughly the size of your average kitchen. The restaurant is packed, so we have to take them away.
'We'll eat in the cinema' says The Husband.
'We can't do that. We won't be able to dip them in the peanut sauce. We'll make a mess.'
'Okay, Let's eat on the bench over there.' He points towards Anderson Street, in front of the post office.
'We can't eat there. That's where the crazy lady usually sits. People will think we're crazy. Or what if she comes along and wants her seat?'
Instead, we eat at the end of Ballarat Street, a few doors down from the cinema, sitting on the street corner, on the concrete step of an abandoned restuarant. It's kind of pleasant, really.
A small boy in cricket whites springs past, a white paper package under his arm. He glances down and spots us at his ankles.
'Hey!' he yells. 'What are you eating? Fish and chips?'
'Nah' says The Husband. 'Rice paper rolls.'
He screws up his face as he crosses the road ahead of us, turning back to express his disgust.
'Euww. You should have fish and chips!'
'Is that what you've got?' asks The Husband. 'Did you play cricket today?'
The boy turns back and comes to join us. He chats about cricket and fish and chips and the match on next week. He asks The Husband if he plays. Then he gives us an appraising look.
'Are you boyfriend and girlfriend? Husband and wife?'
'Yeah, we're married' we say.
'Oh.' He screws up his face. 'But you don't match!'
'We don't match?'
'Nah. You don't!' He waves his arms at us, crouched over our paper buckets peanut sauce. I am wearing loose black linen pants with a looser (black) embroidered cheesecloth singlet and red Birkenstocks. The Husband is wearing jeans, a navy polo shirt and rubber thongs. Maybe that's it?
We chat a little more and, after telling us we should have a baby together, the boy turns back towards home, his fish and chips warming his armpit. He seems about twelve years old.
Inexplicably, what he has said bothers me. I think I have a superstitious belief that the spontaneous observations of a child spring from some kind of deep insight. Maybe I've read too may books, or seen too many films.
Later, in bed, lying awake, I content myself with the reflection that F has told us that we'll be together forever. My child trumps random child.