Vacation blues: a vignette

Short Stories Jan 22, 2019

Pale fingers of daylight creep unobtrusively into the suburb. Hours earlier, it had been a cloistering January night, sticky and warm. A fingernail shaped moon had seemingly escaped the humidity by slithering below the horizon less than two hours ago. The thin light of the pre-dawn now unmasks streets of manicured lawns and orderly homes. South Bottomley is a suburb which shouts neatness and orderliness to the rest of the world.

Banana and avocado farms co-exist with remnants of old-growth rainforest on the hillsides behind South Bottomley. Overhead, swarms of dark fruit bats wing silently southwards over the tiled rooftops towards their roost several kilometres away. It’s been another night of foraging, feasting and screeching in those hills but the closeness of daylight heralds their bedtime. As the darkness of night is overwhelmed by the imperceptible seep of daylight, several plovers begin their raucous birdsong. In response, a kookaburra’s staccato call knifes through the wall of humidity. A soulless symphony of air-conditioning units had droned across the suburb throughout the night. Sleep hadn’t come easily for many, but the forecast is for a scorcher today. This whole summer vacation has been a cycle of repeats. Like Groundhog Day.

Radios and alarms begin flicking on in several homes in Cavendish Road. It’s barely 6am. A kid on a BMX bike pedals unenthusiastically along the footpath, leaving a trail of rolled-up newspapers along the grass verge and gardens. Already, perspiration drips from beneath his helmet. In the privacy of his own head he’s weighing up whether $7.50 per newspaper round is worth it. The staying in bed option is winning. But at least this kid has options. I don’t.

For 3 weeks of the current hot spell, I’ve been silently stewing about the weather, as well as the sameness and boredom in my life. Days of angst have segued into weeks, as waves of anxiety and walls of humidity roll over me in equal measure. I’m not someone who likes this sameness; I’m easily bored. For several weeks now I’ve been pre-occupied with thoughts of running away. Call it escapism if you must, but I’m pathologically bored.

But I’m snapped from my daily routine of introspection, navel-gazing and complaint as heady smells of cooked bacon and percolating coffee waft from number 17, Cavendish Road. There’s movement inside. Signs of life. Chattering voices, squeals of excitement, a percussion of crockery and cutlery. The residents are seemingly oblivious to my presence as I’m tucked low in the outside garden, well below window height. There’s movement towards the family car in the garage. Perhaps today will be different. My spirits begin to rise in anticipation of change. This is the most promising event for me throughout this painfully drawn out school vacation.

The painted door of the garage begins to glide upwards with a creak and a groan. A battered old Subaru station wagon adorned with body boards begins reversing outwards past my position in the garden. Please, please notice me I silently scream. Please take me with you my bulging eyes plead. The Subaru pauses beside me on the driveway. Yessss! I’m breathless in anticipation as a window slides down and the grinning head of a freckle-faced kid protrudes, and he eyeballs me.

“See ya later, Kevin!” the kid shouts at me.

He snorts the derisive snort of a serial snorter. The high pitched blast sounds like he’s trying to force an olive from his nostril. Hysterical laughter erupts inside the car as it continues reversing onto Cavendish Road and disappears towards the beach. A fly lands on my nose and crawls arrogantly across my eye. I fume and silently swear at it, unable to swat it away. Then I resume my perpetual self-loathing about my miserable lot in life. I’m telling you, life sucks when you’re a garden gnome.

By David Dodd.


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