The Big Issue : Edition 439
THE BIG ISSUE 16 -- 29 AUG 2013 27 They turned up at 7.15 with a platter of kabana, crackers and cheese. The cheese already came in cubes, but the kabana they sliced up themselves. I told them they shouldn't have and put it in the fridge. Derek ran to the pool and dived in. Laurelle and Dare watched him from the swing chair while I fried sausages in the kitchen. Over the hiss of the oil I could hear them talking. I wondered if they were talking about me. I remembered they were strangers. They could still want to pinch my TV. We ate in silence on the back deck. It wasn't too uncomfortable. There was a citronella candle in the centre of the table. In the waxy yellow light they looked like children. Everyone does, the older I get. When our children were young my wife used to decorate their cupcakes with silver balls. Dare's piercings made him look like a child with cupcake decorations stuck to his face. I offered him some Greek salad. He told me he didn't eat lettuce. The rest of it looked delicious, but he didn't touch anything green. Derek trudged up the wooden steps. He shook the water off in the way dogs do, then padded over to the table to lounge at our feet like a wet, lazy seal. I asked Laurelle to tell me more about the photos Google took. "Tell you," she said. "I can show you." She rummaged through her handbag and pulled out an electronic gadget. I'd seen withdrawn teenagers and self- satisfed businesspeople use things like it on the bus. They ran their fngers across the screens lovingly, like they were petting a cat. "It's an iPad," Dare said. "We got it on lay-by last month." "We've really been enjoying using Google Earth on it," Laurelle said. "They have this feature called Street View that lets you have a good squiz at any street in the world. We've been going everywhere with it. London, Paris, New York." "New York was sick," Dare said. "Tell me where you want to go," Laurelle said. "It can be anywhere. Anywhere in the world, and I'll show you what it looks like." "Show me my front yard," I said. "That's a bit boring," Dare said. "I don't care. I want to see it." I don’t know why I expected to fnd her in the front yard. She wasn't very interested in gardening. It was always my job to mow the lawn and prune the trees. The picture they showed me was still and empty, like a real estate photo. She wasn't standing at the letterbox. I brought the gadget closer to my face. I looked for her behind trees, inside the garage, on the front steps. She wasn't there. They should have told us they were going to take a photo. We could have stood outside and waved. The gadget felt loose in my hands. I put it down gently on the table. Derek came over to where I was sitting. He put his paws on the armrest and whimpered. I fed him a cube of cheese. "Careful," Laurelle said. "That's how he got fat." "He's got some news," Dare said. He looked at Laurelle. "You tell it." "Derek went to his check-up this morning. He's lost the weight and then some. You should have seen the vet's face Maree Spratt HOLDS A DEGREE IN CREATIVE WRITING FROM THE QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY NOT LITERALLY, OF COURSE SHE CAN'T REMEMBER WHERE SHE PUT IT . SHE HAS PUBLISHED A HANDFUL OF SHORT STORIES AND IS TRYING TO TURN OUT A NOVELLA. SHE BLOGS ABOUT BOOKS AND READING AT ONBOOKSALONE.BLOGSPOT.COM.AU. when we put him on the scales. He said that Derek doesn't have to swim anymore. He’s ft enough to start running.” "That's excellent news," I said. "We thought you'd be happy." Dare took a $20 note out of his pocket. "We wanted to give you something for all the times you let us use your pool. It was real good of you to keep putting up with us." He held the note close to his chest. "That's kind of you," I said. I had to prise it from his hand. When I put it in my wallet the table fell silent. I rubbed Derek's chest with my thumb, moving my hand across his fur until I found his beating heart. The empty glasses and sauce-smeared plates looked fragile in the moonlight. Laurelle thanked me again for everything. I walked them to the door. Derek left a trail of paw prints on my carpet. Dare shook my hand on the doorstep. I think it's polite to watch guests leave. I watched them descend the steps and disappear into the dark. I listened to Dare jangling his keys, and Laurelle breathing heavily as she lugged her weight to the car. I heard Derek leap into the back seat, and Laurelle slam the door behind him. The headlights came on. The car spluttered then roared into life. They tooted the horn three times. Derek barked after like an echo. I made sure the screen door was locked. They were alright, the three of them. I wonder what they're doing now.