The Best Thing

for Adam and Bushy

The surf spot at the end of our street has a wooden path that goes straight in to sea. Dad says that when the council built the path years ago it went on to the sand. Dad always cracks the same joke about why the path goes straight in to the water now, ‘Global warming,’ he says, then his face looks sad and we know he is thinking of Mum.

My sister wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up. Darcy reckons she will specialise and be a seaweed ecologist. She is really smart and smashes maths and science out of the park. I’m not smart but Dad says I am a good egg with a sensitive soul. When I grow up I want to make surfboards like my Dad’s best friend. He makes boards out of paulownia. I think my sister has a crush on him because the only time she stops talking is when Mick and Dad are in the garden building another raised bed. Mick was the first one to call me Sharkbait, ‘Grab us another cuppa while I help your old man build this thing will ya Sharkbait?’

Dad has nine raised beds so far. They are vegie patches with wooden sides as high as my nuts. There is no grass left. Dad says that the point to life is to pay close attention to nature and that the best way to do that is either ‘Rooting, surfing or elbow deep in compost.’ Darcy has a soil testing kit and is always bugging Dad about adding more lime to the mix. She follows him around the garden as he is laying pipes saying stuff like, ‘I’m worried the pH is out of whack.’ Dad looks at her and says, ‘You remind me of your mother,’ sighing then adding, ‘All the nagging,’ as he turns the hose on us.

I was pretty little when Mum got sick. She got a brain tumour when I was a baby and by the time I was old enough to walk Mum was in bed. She had a whistle that she would blow if she fell and needed Darcy to go to the neighbour’s for help. One time when I was about five I climbed a tree in our backyard and Mum came in to the garden. She didn’t know I was there. I watched her. She had no hair except wispy bits around the neck and she wore these turban hat things the lady next door made for her. She was walking really slowly to the clothesline where two magpies were sitting. Mum had bread and she fed them by hand. The next day she went to hospital and she never came back.

Dad says that when Mum was younger she stopped The Bastards from developing our town. Frying slippery jacks he tells us , ‘The developers turned up and started bulldozing. Your Mum went to the shops and came back with two balaclavas, some screwdrivers and a lot of sugar.’ He says Mum would break in to the building yard night after night and pour sugar in the gas tank of whatever machinery was there. ‘When they cottoned on and got a guard your Mum got her cousin, you know Tommy, to put a whole tree over the road into town stopping them from coming.’ In the end the developers got fed up and left. They ended up dredging the break near our cousin’s house. They don’t get waves anymore, just tourists. That’s why the whole town was at her funeral. Even the mayor who had tried to wreck everything was there. He was acting weird. He bent down on one leg so he was level with me. His breath stunk like dead puffer fish. He said, ‘Son, I had a lot of respect for your mother. We didn’t always see eye to eye but she was a fighter,’ and he patted my head. After he left Mick came over and messed up my hair and threw me onto his shoulders. He took me to the edge of the cemetery and showed me a King Parrot that was perched on a gravestone. Mick was crying and so was I, ‘Every time you see a King Parrot from now on, know that it’s her watching us all.’

Next week Darcy is going to the city to stay with Aunty Rach. Dad says that it is good for her to have some chick time and that while she is gone we can walk around in our undies farting. Aunty Rach has a new boyfriend every Christmas. Last Christmas she even had a new girlfriend. Dad says that love does whatever the hell it wants. Her girlfriend gave me a harmonica. Darcy won a state under 16s surf championship last month. Some surf brands wanted to sponsor her but she said, ‘That’s not how I roll,’ copying Aunty Rach, ‘I’m a soul surfer, like Rastovich.’ We are broke and if it was me I would take the hoodie but Darcy’s like Mum and I’m like Dad.

Yesterday there was a great white at our beach. We didn’t go in the water. When we got to the path four of the adults were standing there dripping in their wetsuits staring at something about just past the break. ‘Nearly lived up your name there Sharkbait,’ Sparky said as he toweled off and jumped in his ute to go to work for Dad.

Dad is a landscape architect. He says that means, ‘I shovel shit for rich people.’ Some days he comes home from work in a bad mood and when Darcy asks him why he says, ‘The new owners of the old McGilray place, they’re spraying RoundUp like it’s going out of style.’ RoundUp is this thing that they spray to kill weeds. Mick says it messes with his bee’s GPS so they can’t find their way back home to the hive. Mick and Dad, they do this type of gardening called permaculture where they don’t use chemicals and they wee into the watering can a lot. That’s how Dad met Mum, on an organic farm. He said she made him a buckwheat pancake and it was love at first bite. Mick gives me 50c every time I piss on his lemon tree. One time I tried to trick him by just pouring my water bottle on to it but he saw me doing it, laughed and gave me a dollar.

The best thing about the surf spot at the end of our street is the sound. It sounds like the ocean is playing the piano. The waves hit the shore which is covered in smooth black rocks the size of loaves of bread and they all bump around as the tide sucks back out to sea. It makes a deep and satisfying noise.

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