MAYHEM - Issue Four
The house is an a-frame, which means the second floor bedroom has a low sloping roof. Inside, there is a young girl with a shock of black hair, leaning against her friend’s shoulder under the low ceiling. They flick through a magazine. She has a tendency to suck her thumb when she's tired or when she’s concentrating even though people tell her she should have grown out of that habit by now. Her friend’s dad always catches her. Even though he’s downstairs she chews the nail on her index finger instead.
This is the fourth fortnightly sleepover that the girls have had at the mid-reno house. Last time they went for a bike along the river; the time before that they went fishing for eels in the gully under the moon. The dad calls them from downstairs in the lounge with the orange speckled carpet and log slab coffee table.
As they peel spuds the dad lights the fire. Scrunching newspaper he asks, “Why are women's feet smaller than men's?”
The girls don't know. The black haired girl chews on the inside of her cheek and her friend fiddles with the curl that falls behind her left ear, slightly matted.
"Why?" murmurs his daughter.
“So that they can stand closer to the bench.”
They shuffle while he belly laughs.
The potatoes boil and the girls set Yahtzee, moving the hunting and fishing placemats away. Because her friend doesn't have any siblings, they always end up playing board games or card games with the dad, too. He growls them for counting on their fingers when they add up their scores.
The girl with the black hair needs to pee, so she goes to the bathroom and scrunches her nose as she flicks the toilet seat down. The plastic seat hits the bowl with a bounce and an echo. She never has to do this at home because her mum taught her brother to put the seat back down, just in case his sisters fall into the cold ceramic bowl in the middle of the night. At her dad's the searing cold against upper-thigh is a startling way to wake from midnight toilet trips.
Sitting on the loo at her best friend’s dad’s house, the girl looks up at the calendar and wonders why the dad needs to check the date on the loo. Then she stares at the blonde girl with the big boobs while her pee tinkles against the bowl. She's never really seen pictures like that, not up close, just glances and flashes - pictures always whipped away before she can take a proper look.
Once - on a dad weekend - the girl’s father had had a fight with her stepmum. They went to his friend’s house to stay the night. Sitting at Craig’s dining table with her brother and sister, the girl with the black hair played with a blue plastic spinning top from the Happy Meal she'd had for dinner. The girl’s dad had picked up a magazine with a large red mast-head that read 'GIRLS'. There was a lady on the cover. She was holding tongs, and standing at a barbeque in a polka dot bikini. The girl’s dad had flicked through it, leaning back, raised his eyebrows and passed comments over the girl’s head. She’d tried to peer over the edge of the page to see what was so interesting about a girl magazine.
“Not for your eyes, Biddie.”
He shut the magazine.
Sitting on the loo, the girl stares at the calendar on the wall. She doesn’t wonder if the lady works at the welding place screenprinted across her ripped top, and she doesn’t wonder what the tool in the lady’s hand does. But, she does wonder, again, why her best friend’s dad needs a calendar in the toilet. The young girl stares. She takes in the denim cut-off shorts, frayed at the edge, tanned thighs spilling from the hem; the mouth, with parted lips painted bold; the flat stomach, smeared with black grease and the swollen breasts bursting from the tight, tight tee. She kind of knows that she shouldn’t be looking - that it’s not for her eyes - but she can’t help it.
The girl finishes peeing. She scrunches up some toilet paper, wipes, and pulls up her pants. Then she flushes the toilet, washes her hands under the mismatched taps and goes back out into the lounge.