First Published July 13, 2007 although it first appeared on ASRM around 2002
This story is loosely based on some of the things I came across while working in a homeless men's centre in Brisbane back in the 80's.The phrase, "men's centre" is a bit misleading. If there weren't enough beds in more appropriate refuges, it would sometimes accommodate youths. .
The action is deliberately "condensed" If I would have developed the characters fully, it would have taken several instalments of dialogue, and wouldn't have had enough "pull" to keep the momentum or interest. For this publication, I have toned down some of the language.
It's my fault. It's always my bloody fault. I should have known better. How could I have been so bloody stupid. Let's face it girl, nothing you do is right is it. Well I'm going to change all that. I'll show them.
"Talk to us about anything dear," they said.
Yeah right. Look what happens when I do. Dad nearly falls of his chair and mum just sits there doing an impersonation of a goldfish.
"Whatever has bought this on dear?" she asked. He asked, "What you talking about girl?"
"You're being a little silly aren't you dear? Get this nonsense out of your head. Why can't you be like your sister".
She said. He said. Nobody listened. Nobody hugged.
I'll show them.
"What's this? Looks like Suzie's handwriting on this envelope. Do you know anything about this Iris?"
"Oh dear, better open it and see what it says dear. Hope she hasn't done anything silly".
I should have known. Now it's started to rain. Bloody typical. Can't even get this right. Why don't one of you buggers stop? I'm not an axe murderer.
My arm's getting sore from holding my thumb out. Maybe if I go to another spot I'd have better luck. Ha, that's a laugh. Me have luck. Forget it.
I'm not like my sister.
"If she thinks she's crawling back here with her tail between her legs, she's got another thing coming."
"Now dear, don't get all het up, you know what the doctor said."
"Bloody doctors, what would they know".
"Maybe we were too hard on her dear. Maybe we shouldn't have been so shocked. I was reading a magazine the oth...
"Bloody magazines. Bloody smart arses the lot of them. Don't need a bloody magazine to tell me how to bring up my kids. Never had any trouble with our Jane did we?"
"Yes dear, but...""No buts about it Iris, so get that notion out of your head".
Come on. Somebody please stop. I'm cold and wet and just want to get out of this hick town and to the city. Things will be different there. It's not just mum and dad, it's the whole place.
I'll get a job, meet some hunk. He will understand. He will hug me and tell me he loves me.
I just a need a lift. Then I'll show them.
Things will be different there.
"I can't go traipsing around all over town Iris, I have work to do. Who knows where that silly girl has got to. Could be anywhere by now. Probably miles away. No, she wanted to run away, that's up to her. She'll be back when she's cold and hungry, you mark my words. I'll have a few words to say to her too when she does".
"Yes dear, but perhaps we should have tried to understand".
"Understand? Understand? what's there to understand for crying out loud? Have you ever heard of anything so silly?"
"No dear, but then maybe this was important to her".
"Important my arse".
Maybe I'm being too hard on them. Wonder how I would have reacted? I bet I would have listened. I would have tried to understand. Must have surprised them though. Not something they would have expected.
Wouldn't have happened with Jane.
Oh please somebody stop.
"I'm worried Alf.. Been ten hours now."
"Now don't fret Iris. She will be back. You mark my words."
"But what if she doesn't Alf? What then? "
"Now now dear, don't think like that. She will be back. I'm sure she will. I'm sure."
"So what do you intend doing in the city Suzie?"
"I'm going to get a job, then a place of my own. Nice car you have Sir."
"Please, call me Dave".
"Where are you going Alf?"
"I'm going to the police station Iris."
"Wait, I'll come with you. But she's seventeen not much they can do."
"I'll give them nothing they can do. You mark my words".
"So you don't think I'm crazy then Dave?"
"No not at all. Pretty normal actually"
"Really? Gee, I thought I was the only one".
"So there may be hope for me in the city then?"
"Oh sure. You mark my words".
"I am sorry Sir, but she is over sixteen there is little we can do".
"I want you to find her damn it!"
"Now Alf, no good losing your temper. Let's do what the Sergeant says and go home and wait. She will be back soon. Mark my words".
"Nah, I don't really hate my parents, they were pretty kewl in a lot of ways. Let me do anything I wanted almost. They just didn't understand."
"Like you say; things will be different in the city. Almost there now. Just on the outskirts of Sydney. I know a nice pub near here if you fancy a drink".
"Yeah why not. I bought my fake ID with me too LOL".
"Looking at the telephone wont make it ring Alf".
"Where is she? She could have called. Where did we go wrong? Why has she done this? Maybe you're right Iris, I shouldn't have lost my temper. Maybe I should have tried to understand. Don't know how, but I could have tried. "
"I know dear. But when she comes home we will talk to her, all right".
"It's good that I can talk to you. Didn't think anyone would understand".
"Oh I understand. Here, let me get you another one."
"Oh no thank you. Think I have had enough, feel a bit drowsy".
"Nonsense. Not at home with mum and dad now to answer to. You're a big girl now".
"You're right. I'm in the city now. Things will be different here. OK, if you insist".
"We should get some sleep."
"You go on to bed Iris, I will wait here. Just in case".
"We weren't to know Alf. I wish she would come home. If she walked through that door now I would hug her till she was blue".
"So would I Iris. So would I".
"You know, if you really want a job, I know a guy - good friend actually".
"Really. In fact, he would pay good money for someone like you".
"You look tired Suzie. I have something that will help".
"Any mail today Iris?"
"No Alf. No phone calls either. Maybe she will phone at Christmas. You know, when the Salvation Army hands out free phone cards to the street kids".
"You think she's been living on the street all this time Iris?"
"Have to consider that. Be hard work getting a job in the city at seventeen. No experience or qualifications either. What would she do?"
"Don't hang around you dozy cow unless you want the back of my hand again, got another punter for you".
"I'm coming Dave".
One day I will escape from here. You'll see. I'll show him. I'll head back home.
Things will be different there.
Wherever you may be - be safe
Copyright Mike Hitchen Online, Lane Cove, NSW, Australia. All rights reserved