Childcare

Sandra was already ten minutes late, and she knew that they couldn’t afford to pay the extra money to the childcare centre for being late. Fifty dollars per ten minutes. It was steep, and even though she knew it was only fair to the workers who would otherwise have to stay late, surely circumstances had to be taken into consideration?

It was the best childcare facility that she had heard of. All her friends had used it when they returned to work. Well, not Fiona, but Fiona’s husband refused to let her return to work. He had to provide for them, Fiona would announce with a mock sigh. Dinosaur! They’d cry in reply. What about feminism? It’s like the sixties never happened! What about your career? Secretly, Sandra dreamed of being married to a dinosaur and not having to work. But only sometimes.

She did an illegal u-turn and parked halfway in a disabled park, running up to the doorway, already apologising to the stern-faced childcare worker.

After groveling for a few minutes and making outlandish excuses, she’d take Catherine by the hand and march her to the car. Her anger at the traffic and the childcare centre’s policy and her own ability to keep track of the time would be taken out on the slightest thing her daughter did wrong. She knew it. She hated doing it, but she knew she would.

As she drove off, her phone rang. It was her husband. She threw the phone on the passenger seat and looked at her daughter in the mirror. Tomorrow she would definitely be on time.

 

Meditation

She lay on her back on the carpet with her knees bent and breathed deeply. The tension felt mostly in her shoulders and her lower back. Arching the back made it crack slightly, and then she relaxed. Already she could feel a slight itching in her eyes. The carpet was probably full of dust and her hayfever would really kick in shortly. But still she lay there.

She put the heels of her hands on her eye sockets and felt the weight on her face. It felt comforting. The muscles in her upper back stretched, still slightly sore from yesterday’s workout. She listened to her breathing, just as the cassettes had taught her once upon a time, a long time ago. Placing her hands by her sides, she imagined sinking into the floor, slowly, as though it were sand. Each grain slowly taking over her body, covering every centimetre of her. First her hands and wrists, then feet and ankles, then arms and neck and legs and ears and hips and torso and breasts and finally her mouth and cheeks and forehead and eyes and tip of her nose, and she felt warm under all of this sand.

After a moment, she dragged herself out of the sand and back to her desk. These sneaks from reality were the only things that got her through this job.

 

The tunnel

The tunnel was quiet. Andi sat, her head leant in to her knees and she giggled quietly to herself. She knew this wasn’t the best hiding place, but then Rohan wasn’t the best seeker, so she might win this round. The only time she had a chance to win was when Rohan was seeking.

It felt like ages passed. Her watch said 10:55, but it always said 10:55 since Poppy pushed Andi into the pool with it still on her wrist. Playtime finished at 11:00. She started to count to sixty; one, cat, dog, two, cat, dog, three, cat, dog, four, cat, dog. Her brother, David, said that it wasn’t cats and dogs, it was hippopotamuses. But, he didn’t have Mrs Stroner, he had Mrs Ulmes. Everyone knew Mrs Stroner knew more stuff that Mrs Ulmes.

It was so quiet. This was the longest Andi had ever hidden. She was sure of it. But the bell hadn’t gone. It must just be her imagination that it was a long time. Mrs Stroner said that when you’re having fun, time goes faster. Mrs Stroner also said that when you get older, time goes faster, and Andi turned seven last week, so that was probably it. On the other hand, Mum often said that time was dragging, and she was heaps older than seven.

Andi poked her head out of the tunnel. There were no other kids on the playground. A bit of Glad wrap flicked up in the breeze, and the old man across the road was checking his letterbox. The bell must have gone! Andi quickly got out of the tunnel and headed to her classroom. Before she went in, she looked at the clock. 11:25! That was the best hiding ever! But she would be in so much trouble. Plus, the class was watching something on the telly, and Andi loved telly so much. She wished she’d heard the bell.

The door seemed much louder than usual. Mrs Stroner looked up, clearly surprised to see Andi.

‘Where have you been?’ she asked sternly.

Andi immediately burst into tears, sobbing about the game of hide and seek and how no one found her or told her the bell had gone. Mrs Stroner gave her a tissue and sat her down the back of the class. As the show continued, Andi smiled quietly to herself. She still hadn’t told anyone where she’d been hiding. 

 

Crying

Eliza’s eyes had only felt this ache once before. At the birth of her daughter. She had been in labour for over twenty hours – twenty-seven, the midwife told her later. Then, it had been fatigue that caused her eyes to ache. No, not fatigue. Exhaustion.

Now, she stared beyond the crowd, scared to blink, scared to let out the first tear, scared that once the pain started pouring out of her it would never end. Not until she, too, was completely gone.

People approached to express condolences. Her daughter, now fully grown, sat beside her and gently deflected their approach. Occasionally, Eliza responded with a vague nod of her head, but she had no idea if this was noticed by anyone.

She breathed in deeply, feeling the prickle of tears in her eyes, trying desperately to draw them back inside, but it was no good. She felt them gather, blurring her vision of him; his shoulders heaving as he released his own tears.

What right did he have to cry?

This thought pulled her back from her catatonia. She shook her head and wiped her eyes and nose aggressively with the back of her sleeve and started to plan revenge.

 

Slovenly

‘Slovenly.’ The word rang in her ears. Sandy wasn’t sure what it meant, but her mother’s tone of voice made it quite clear that it wasn’t a compliment.

‘Go to the bathroom and fix yourself up, love,’ her father whispered as she went past. ‘Don’t give her a reason to start on you.’

Sandy didn’t think she’d ever given her a reason. But a reason was always found. It didn’t matter that her uniform skirt was long: she was still called a slut. If her hair was out, she was a vixen. If it was back, she was a tease. The one time she dared try make-up it had become physical. Now, in the bathroom, Sandy stared in the mirror and wished she were anyone else.

 

The sun shone

The sun shone through the windscreen and the inside temperature of the car was bordering on unbearable. Soon, she’d have to open the window. Soon. But for now, she’d turn up the radio and put on her sunglasses. Some Latin American beats filled the car and she started to dance a little in her seat as she drove slowly through the shops. A man stepped out in front of her and, for no explainable reason, she waved at him. His face twisted and he started to shout at her, so viciously that she could see the sun flickering off his saliva. As she drove away, she giggled at the thought that he probably expected to be abused by someone who gesticulated near him, not waved at. Normally, his reaction would make her angry. But the music and the sun kept her smiling.

 

Not slow motion

It wasn’t slow motion like in a movie. No, in a movie, the phone would have tumbled slowly through the air, twisting and turning. There would have been a cut to a shot of her arm slowly stretching through the air after it, just missing as it hit the toilet seat and dropping into the bowl. In the movie, she would have already flushed, and the magic toilet fairies would have bleached the bowl to that ridiculous, unachievable pristine whiteness of the commercials.

It wasn’t like that. She’d been holding the phone in her mouth (because she was all class) when she’d sneezed. The nearest thing to a movie moment was when she flashed back to her in the phone shop saying. ‘Insurance? Nah, I’m pretty careful.’

Amazingly, the jar of rice had worked – she’d kept the phone in there for 2 days and it was kind of working, although she rarely knew who would receive her text messages or phone calls. It made life exciting, if very inconvenient.

 

Another Sunday morning

She forces her eyes open. She is still on the couch. Rage is blaring from the television, but the sun is sneaking around the edges of the blinds. There is a full ashtray on the table next to a few empty bottles of wine and several stubbies. Her neck is stiff, but as she stretches it, her head starts to throb. Moving slowly, she flicks off the television and looks around the room. Both of her friends have gone, some time in the early hours. She hopes neither drove. She gives up on moving and lays herself on the couch, shuts her eyes and quietly moans to herself.

 

154 entries and finally one about writer’s block (sort of)

She changed the font four times, the spacing twice and then realised her bottle was empty. The water refilled, she decided that she should have a coffee now rather than interrupting the flow of words once it started. The seat wasn’t quite right, so she got a pillow, then a second, but two made her too high. She put one back and noticed a lot of dust on the coffee table, so she quickly dusted and then vacuumed the whole house. With the floors so clean, the windows looked terrible, and when they were clean she noticed how unruly the garden looked. Once the grass was mown, the roses trimmed back and the garden beds weeded, the fence looked terrible. When it was painted, the chewing gum marks on the footpath looked terrible, so she scraped them off, and then she noticed some dog droppings on the nature strip. She campaigned the local council for new regulations on dog dropping collection and then saw a pair of shoes hanging from the electric wires. The wires were moved underground and she started coughing from the exhaust fumes. All cars were banned unless they were electric and coal fire plants were changed to renewable energy with minimal emissions.

She sat back at the computer and began to type.

 

Moving out

She had cleaned the entire house from top to bottom. The walls and ceilings were washed, and tiles and every bit of grout between each scrubbed with a toothbrush. The windows were wiped and she’d had the carpets cleaned professionally. Every cupboard had been washed inside and out and she was exhausted. The place looked amazing. All she had to do was hand back the keys. As she shut the front, she wondered what it would have been like to live in a house this clean for the sixteen years she’d been in the house.