Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
“Do you remember Jonnie Casey?”
“Yeah, I remember Jonnie Casey. He played full back for the first fifteen. Why?”
“You see the thing about that girl in the paper?”
“Yeah I saw.”
“Terrible what happened. That was Jonnie Casey’s girlfriend.”
“Shit, you don’t say?”
“I haven’t seen Jonnie Casey in years.”
“It’s a shame isn’t it?”
“Yeah it’s a shame,” he said, before lifting himself from his chair. “I’m just going to have a smoke.”
“Smoke in here, I don’t mind. Just open that window, right there.”
“I want to smoke outside.”
He picked a cigarette and lit it. From somewhere out in the midday suburban disquiet came the long jerking cackle of a baby, followed by the distant yapping of a dog. He closed his eyes as he drew on the cigarette and opened them when he exhaled. His eyes cast about the street for nothing in particular.
He pitched his cigarette onto the drive way then slid the door open.
The old woman sat with her legs crossed at the knee and her foot tapping; she didn’t notice his head craned in the door until he spoke.
“I’m going to head off.”
“Oh yeah, what have you got on?”
“Go home, I don’t know. I’ve got things to do.”
“Alright, well drive safe,” she said returning to the newspaper.
On a long straight, a figure quivered in the heat rising from the tarmac. Walking off to the side of the road, a shape transfigured – a head, arms and legs. He dropped gears, the engine lugged then eased to a stop at the shoulder of the road. Leaning over, he spoke.
“Need a lift, boy?”
Schoolbag hanging over one shoulder, a boy of ten or eleven. Eyes down cast, once black shoes browned with dust.
“No, I don’t need a ride, thanks,” he said without looking up.
“Where you heading?”
He gestured with a nudge of his head.
“That way. Just up Moreland Road.”
“You Tom Haverkamp’s kid aren’t you?”
The boy nodded.
“Well climb in, I can drop you up there, I’m heading that way anyway.”
“I-” he hesitated. “I’m okay to walk.”
He nodded for a moment and looked up the road.
In the rear view mirror, the boy stood and watched as the car pulled away from the shoulder. He gave it more gas than it needed and the boy didn’t move from the bronze cloud of dust the wheels had kicked up. Before he descended from a crest he regarded the now distant figure in the review mirror, he was walking again in the direction they both were headed.
“What do you think?” he asked of his wife.
“Watch whatever, Hon. I’m making dinner.”
“I mean, do you think it will make the national news?”
She looked into the macaroni and cheese, listlessly turning it with a table spoon. She pulled the lid of the boiling potatoes and adjusted the heat.
“Will what make the national news?”
“The girl from the village who went missing.”
She stopped moving the pots and spoon to consider it. “No,” she said. “People go missing all the time and it doesn’t make the national news, don’t see how this is any different.”
“Mum was saying, when I seen her earlier today, she said that this girl was seeing this guy I knew at high school.”
“It’s awful, but who knows, she might turn up.”
“I’m sure she probably will, but that doesn’t mean she will be alive,” he said.
She turned her head away from the stove top to see what his face was saying.
“Your back any better today?” she asked.
“Not much. I won’t be able to go back to work for a while yet.”
“Well I don’t mind, so long as they keep paying you.”
“They’ve got to, that’s the law.”
He was hunched forward upon the edge of the sofa and he pinched along the stubble at his thick jaw.
When the ad break began he rose and moved to the kitchen. His eyes wandered up from the apron strings, tightly knotted against the small of her back, to her hair, which sat up in a loose knot. Her shoulders shot up when he kissed her neck then relaxed and he took her hips in his hands.
“What you call this one?” he asked playfully.
“It’s just mac and cheese and I might mash the spuds if we’ve got butter.”
“We don’t, but I’ll get some.”
“Okay, don’t be long though. This is almost ready.”
“Won’t be five minutes.”
At the milk bar, the girl behind the counter took a piece of gum from her mouth when he entered and watched the entrance for a moment as he walked past her.
“How are you Mr Green?”
“I’m good, how about yourself?” he called from the aisle, taking up a block of butter.
Frowning, he circled the island of shelves at the centre of the store.
“Where are the pain killers hiding?”
“They’re back here by the cigarettes.”
“What are they doing back there?” he asked, approaching the counter, over which she bent on her elbows.
“Well, Mr Raji moved them. Kids have been stealing them.”
“Yeah that’s what he said. I caught one of them once, you know?”
“What do they steal them for?”
“I don’t know. Kid’s only a year or two younger than me. I think they’re taking them for fun.”
With a short concerned nod he put the butter on the counter, then cleared his throat.
“Well you can be dead certain I’m not taking them for fun,” he said.
The girl didn’t meet his gaze, but flashed a timid smile. “No I didn’t mean anything like that.”
“Oh, I know. I’m just saying, you can’t have too much fun with these things,” he eyed a cigarette pack and shot it with his finger. “I’ll take a pack of them Pall Mall 25s and a box of Panadein.”
He paid, they thanked each other then he left. In the dim fluorescent night, moths beat about the lone street light in delirious elliptical whirls and beat against the glass shopfront.
He looked up as his lights came on and the engine started, she wasn’t moving, she was just watching the car. When the engine crunched into reverse he saw her replace the chewing gum and check her mobile phone for the time and for any contact she may have missed.
He placed the butter beside the covered pot of potatoes on the chopping board, then swallowed a pair of pain killers. On his way back outside, he heard his wife call, “You want to mash those?”
“I will in a minute,” he called back, before sliding the door closed behind him and lighting a cigarette.
To the quiet clink of knife and fork against each other and the noir big band sounds of the crime drama on the television. Husband and wife spoke, sitting next to each other on the couch.