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Boo …

Rocco’s mother goes walking outside  in the night. Not with a swirly black cloak and fangs – though this wouldn’t surprise anybody – but she makes sure she turns her iPod up loud enough that she can’t hear the footsteps coming up behind. Footsteps of whom, you may well ask? Who knows. There are things out there. You just have to make sure they don’t know you’re there.

The first time Rocco’s mother remembers having seen something for sure was a few weeks after she’d married the Hunter Gatherer and they’d moved into a little old rented fibro house with two bedrooms and no mod cons at all. There were so few mod cons that washing was done in a tub – and there wasn’t any television. There wasn’t a bed, either – so Rocco’s mother and the HG had a mattress on the floor in a bedroom which led from the little living room. The bedroom had a rickety old wardrobe and an ancient dressing table with a large mirror. If you were sitting on mattress  in bed, you could look in the mirror and see the reflection of the creepy little corner fireplace in the living room. This was what Rocco’s mother was doing one evening – while the HG was out at a football presentation – when she looked up from her book and saw Sailor Lad.

Sailor Lad was standing in front of the fireplace. He was looking through the bedroom door and straight into the mirror. He saw Rocco’s mother – and Rocco’s mother saw him. It is hard to determine which of them was more aghast. Rocco’s mother remembers making some kind of noise. Her heart was hammering in her chest. She got an impression of Sailor Lad’s white trousers and loose, white tunic. She wondered how he had broken into her home. It took only seconds for her to leap (as she was fitter in those days), from mattress to floor and into the living room – which was inexplicably empty. The front door was locked. The back door was also locked. There was nobody in the house, and not a sound except the tock-tock-tock of Rocco’s mother’s Black Forest cuckoo clock, which had been a birthday present from her parents and which, apart from a few tons of books and a bright blue potato peeler, was practically the only thing she had brought to the marriage. It hit Rocco’s mother that perhaps she and Sailor Lad were not existing in the same time frame. Much later, she wondered whether Sailor Lad had told his nearest and dearest he’d seen a wild-haired, 70s housewife crap herself in horror at the sight of him.

The Hunter Gatherer was/is not the type of person to indulge in flights of fancy, so Rocco’s mother wondered at his likely reaction when she told him what had occurred. If he’d laughed, that would have been fine. Had he mocked and jeered, there would have been a sense of relief, and the incident might have been tucked behind the mirror, so to speak, and discounted as some kind of weird, non-alcoholic hallucination.  To Rocco’s mother’s dismay, the HG frowned and told her he’d had the feeling they ‘weren’t alone in the house’. Naturellement, this was exactly what Rocco’s mother wanted to hear. Not. It’s bad enough having a new husband seeing what you look like first thing in the morning – far worse to be scrutinised by someone who may or may not exist. And Rocco’s mother lived in fear of bumping into Sailor Lad in the middle of the night whilst making a lavatorial visit – which meant trekking through two rooms in the dark, around three, all-concealing corners.

The house Rocco’s mother and the HG moved into a few months later – and indeed, in which they still live – was new at the time, and thankfully, Sailor Lad didn’t follow Rocco’s mother there. Indeed, he didn’t make another appearance at the other house, either. There have been different phenomena over the years – a strange indent which appears in the middle of the bed, often several times a day – even though Rocco’s mother smooths the covers each time she walks past. Some days, it doesn’t happen at all. Some days, the sound of footsteps coming down the hall can be heard when Rocco’s mother is in the back garden – but when she goes up the back stairs to see who’s come home, there’s nobody there. And the most frightening thing happened one night when she was coming out of the ensuite bathroom in the early hours. Rocco’s mother walked slap-bang into a dense, black mass in the doorway – which she assumed was the HG coming in. Then, with mounting horror,  she saw him – still fast asleep and oblivious – lying in bed two metres away.

It’s impossible to believe there’s nothing out there. Naturally, Rocco’s mother still likes to have the sheet over her face in the darkness. Maybe then, nothing will know that she’s there …

.oOo.

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The small print is the most important ingredient on the label …

There are lots of reasons why Rocco’s mother should probably remember to take her reading glasses to Food-o-rama. Without them, she can just about drive the car there, negotiate her way across the carpark in a fairly basic manner and stumble through the sliding glass doors of the mall – and mostly, she can even tell which aisle she’s in. She knows her way around Food-o-rama well enough to almost locate the products she requires – and sometimes even gets it right. Last week however, she managed to get it wrong in rather an epic and spectacular display of misjudgement – and Rocco paid for it the next day. Indeed, Rocco’s hapless colleagues probably paid, too.

Rocco’s mother, who is definitely not renowned for Nigella-esque bursts of culinary activity (or mesmerising bosoms, even), decided to try a type of bottled coconut curry sauce in which to cook chicken. It looked delicious altogether and was – which is important – in an aesthetically pleasing jar. Obviously, there is far more to curry sauce than the illustration on the label – indeed, if Rocco’s mother was any kind of mother at all, she’d be making her own curry sauce with a million exotic spices ground lovingly with a pestle and mortar hewn from million-year-old volcanic rock. Rocco’s mother is not that kind of mother –  a fact which has been long established – and any foray into the kitchen is miraculous in itself. People are expected to show gratitude.

Rocco was prepared to show quite a bit of gratitude, because the curry smelt delicious as it simmered away – and Rocco was hungry.  He was happy his mother had made enough that there was some left over for him to take for lunch the next day. Goodo, and much anticipatory gnashing of teeth.

It became apparent to Rocco’s mother, as she sampled the first forkful, that she should not have gone there. The coconut curry was arsebreakingly evil – even the fumes entering the nostrils were ringing out a warning. Fumbling for her glasses, Rocco’s mother examined in detail the beautifully illustrated label on the jar, and discovered, in small print, ‘… with HOT peri peri’. Rocco’s mother did not have a clue of the meaning of peri peri. She did, however, have a working knowledge of the meaning of ‘hot’. It is a word she associates with water bottles, roast dinners and Alan Rickman. It is not a word she had ever considered in the same sentence as peri peri. Nevertheless, so it was written, and she felt it necessary to issue Rocco with a timid and somewhat embarrassed warning:

‘I don’t think we’re going to be able to eat this …’

Rocco and his mother sat with tears streaming down their faces and their nostrils twitching alarmingly. Rocco managed to finish his – though his mother was less enthusiastic about having her internal organs perforated, decimated and spat out at the other end. Both parties reached for tubs of fruche in order to put things to rights – and Rocco’s mother suggested Rocco may not wish, all things considered, to take the remains of the curry to work the next day.

Imagine her surprise the next morning on discovering the container of curry had been removed from the fridge and taken to Rocco’s place of employment – which, fortunately, is an open-walled timber mill. The thought of Rocco being cooped in a small, musty, air conditioned office was more than Rocco’s mother could bear thinking about. She thanked the Great Mother he was not performing brain surgery that day. She worried all morning about her son’s health – flinching each time she heard ambulance sirens, fire sirens – or even police sirens, as she considered excessive flatulence in the workplace could certainly constitute a crime against humanity.

In the middle of the afternoon, Rocco’s mother received a txt msg. ‘Thnx heaps – thr ws plastic in my lnch.’

There are lots of reasons why Rocco’s mother should wear her reading glasses whilst cooking. One of which is that, after snipping the plastic strip from the top of the noodle pouch, she would be able to ensure it went into the bin, rather than into the stir-fry. Rocco’s mother cannot comprehend how this happened – but consoled herself with the fact a strip of plastic probably would have done far less harm to her son’s digestive tract than the food in which it was lodged. As Rocco assured her his lunch was ‘nicer today than last night’, she saluted herself on having improved the recipe with her surprise ingredient inclusion. She may now patent a new range of curry sauces:

‘With HOT peri peri – and plastic strip.’

Rocco’s mother can almost hear Nigella wishing she’d thought of it first.

.oOo.

Hear Emily say …

Flygirl and Roo have just had a few days at Casa Shambolic with the desired effect. They managed to well and truly whup Rocco’s WiiFit records into oblivion, amid much hilarity and loud hallelujahs which went not very gently into that good night. Because such dedication and endurance had been selflessly exhibited, Rocco’s mother is now hesitant to tell the girls their hard-won records no longer stand – and because of the weather and being ravaged by the horrendities (which isn’t a word but certainly should be) of menopausal symptoms, she has not yet gone into bat on their behalf and wreaked appropriate vengeance. She promises she will – fear not. When she feels less likely to kill someone.

On one of the days the girls were down, Rocco’s mother decided a beach day with fish’n’chips would be a nice idea. So  Flygirl suctioned her GPS thingie onto the windscreen to give it a test run. Not that the Hunter Gatherer didn’t know where he was going – and looking back, it was probably a mistake not to factor into the device his intention to make a pitstop at Tools’R’Crap to purchase a length of PVC pipe on the way. Had he done this, the default navigator – who happened to be a rough, bogan trollop called Shazza – might not have become quite so bolshie and pissed off. Finally, with Shazza muttering a rather insolent ‘Strewth!’ as the HG gamely ignored her third instruction to take the second exit at the roundabout and proceed ever onward into epic adventure, it became obvious things were going to get a bit nasty.

The other occupants of the vehicle were a little worried Shazza might take it upon herself to exact revenge by navigating them spitefully into the river – so while the HG was making the pipe purchase, a whispered discussion was had, which resulted in Flygirl consulting the navigator option menu and finding a nice Englishwoman called Emily. It was decided Emily would be far more tolerant and maybe not as prone to hissy fits – so the tribe proceeded beachwards feeling ever so much more confident indeed – and with room for a pony.

Emily was extremely ladylike and polite. Indeed, after assisting in manoeuvring the car expertly onto the highway, she shut up completely for the next 20km. The occupants of the car sat in expectation, waiting for her to instruct them further – or even comment on the weather (pleasant), the rather ordinary condition of the roads (woeful) or her plans for a weekend with a hot Rastafarian toyboy, even. It occurred to Rocco’s mother there should be a Have-a-Chat option, whereby you could indulge in exciting and illuminating conversation with your navigator on long and boring trips where you had no passengers – or even where you did have passengers, but they were crap and boring. Rocco’s mother was fairly sure Shazza, had she still been entrusted with the directional activities, would have had plenty to say and a rather colourful way of saying it – but Emily had evidently turned away from the business at hand and was probably reaching for the cucumber sarnies and plopping another clod of clotted cream languidly on to her scones.

Half a dozen kilometres from the turnoff, Emily brushed the final scone crumbs from her lips with her white linen napkin and informed the HG he should, ‘turn LEFT at Nearly-There-Now-Blinky Road and proceed for 17km.’ There was mass excitement from the passengers and calls of, ‘Way to go!’ and ‘Good on yer, Em!’ Emily demurely ignored both the praise and hilarity, being very well bred and obviously knowing it was not done to fraternise with the driver and his tribe of yobs. She was probably wondering at that stage how many Rastafarians she’d have to sleep with in order to get a job in a nice car which did not have the detritus of other jaunts scattered in the passenger-side footwell, and which had a nicer class of passenger altogether.  

The fish’n’chips were demolished down at the water’s edge. Nobody would have dared eat them in the car – it was obvious Emily would have disapproved enormously of greasy-fingered gluttony and random squirts of lemon juice spattering the windscreen and dashboard.

Shazza, on the other hand, would have probably ordered a Chiko Roll to go with it.

.oOo. 

Nothing will ever have a place anywhere any more …

There is a gaping hole in the kitchen of Rocco’s mother – where the drawers used to be. Whether they will ever go there again is questionable, and Rocco’s mother is forced to gaze in wonder (and maybe even, if she cares to admit it, a little bit of annoyance), at the pile of plastic bags flung in the corner which contain the once neatly arranged ex-contents of the ghosts of drawers past. The contents of the cutlery drawer are in their little compartmentalised tray thingie on the kitchen table. For convenience. They’d like to be in a drawer, as would the biscuit cutters, melon baller, bicycle repair kits and random crap – but there is not one available in which for them to be.

For Rocco, in a fit of goodwill and benevolence, decided to commit his good deed for the year and replace the faulty drawer runners while his parents were away on Boxing Day. The drawers had been malfunctioning for quite some time – most of the little ball bearings having escaped and rolled to places unknown – and on the one occasion the Hunter Gatherer had attempted to purchase new runners, he’d discovered – alas – the correct size and type were no longer available. Thus, things trundled along in an unsatisfactory manner for several years – until Rocco, in absentia parentis, decided to get it sorted for once and for all.

The first Rocco’s mother knew about this was while she was waiting, in pleasant and indulgent anticipation, for her dinner to arrive at her table in the Upper WoopWoop Golf Club, where the Hunter Gatherer had taken her for tea. A txt msg came through – not quite like manna from heaven, but surprising nonetheless  – which stated, in Rocco’s usual eloquent fashion, that he’d ‘… trd to fx kchn drws and f*kd thm. Sorry :(.’

Rocco’s mother was touched. She thought it was sweet of Rocco to have wanted to indulge in household repairs and maintenance at Casa Shambolic – which has, indeed, rather a long list of impending projects to be tackled. She txtd back – using lots and lots of words and proper punctuation and upper case letters for appropriate nouns even – because naturally Rocco’s mother cannot allow herself to abbrv8  or lwr her stndrds in any way. She told Rocco how lovely it was that he’d attempted the project – and assured him he was not to worry at all.

At almost the precise time his parents arrived home after their two days away, Rocco departed on his own short holiday – assuring his mother as he passed her swiftly on the verandah he would attend to the drawer problem on his return, as he would have to construct new drawers to accommodate the updated runners. Rocco’s mother was happy (allegedly, anyway) to wait a few days. Given that the gaping hole in the kitchen cupboards would have been evident even to Blind Freddy, encapsulated within a wombat trundling its way through her kitchen in the middle of a dark night after hell had frozen over, she was happy in the knowledge Rocco would not ever be able to forget the job had not been completed. Every morning when he wanted his lunchwrap and coloured Zippy bags for his sarnie, he would be forced to rummage in the plastic bags in the corner, as was she. He would be mightily peeved by this, and would surely move to complete the job, Godspeed.

Theoretically, this seemed like a very goodly thing. In reality, however, Rocco’s mother is less than impressed with the status quo. Today is January 10, and there is still a gaping hole in the kitchen of Rocco’s mother. She does not wish to complicate things by suggesting the situation move to a more convenient level, so she has taken to placing various object d’art in the cavity each night before going to bed – in the hope Rocco will be shocked and awed into taking appropriate remedial action. On one particular morning, he was greeted by a Mexican garden gnome. It obviously didn’t !hola! quite loudly enough, as Rocco failed to remark on it. Neither did he seem to notice the large watermelon, the chamberpot or the 10kg of very excellent and quality hoochy-kooch in the boogie board cover.  Which probably wasn’t all that surprising, seeing as even customs officials miss that one.

Rocco’s mother is not quite sure which course of action to take next. Maybe tomorrow morning she will leap from the cavity in person, wild and demented in her horrid velveteen dressing gown and frightening hair. In which case, Rocco will probably say, ‘Seeing as you’re in the kitchen, woman – bake me some cake!’

And Rocco’s mother will say … ‘Boo!’

.oOo.

Looking cool in a penguin costume does not make you a literary giant …

If there isn’t already, there should be a law which states clearly and firmly that fit, healthy 21-year-old lads are not allowed to always be first on the WiiFit leaderboard. This is particularly pertinent when the WiiFit actually belongs to Rocco’s mother. She should be allowed to be best at something

The Hunter Gatherer gave Rocco’s mother the WiiFit for Christmas. The frightening part was that it wanted to weigh her. Naturellement, she thought NOT. Who in their right mind wants technology to tell them they are obese?  You could argue that machines don’t know everything – and Rocco’s mother did. Therefore, she closed her eyes while the machine did its worst, and didn’t ever click on the WEIGHT button. A little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing – and Rocco’s mother wanted to venture forth into 2009 without much knowledge at all. Especially the kind which might impede her prior knowledge regarding how excellent chocolate and sea-salt potato crisps taste. And icy cold iced coffee by the gallon. And we’re not talking the low-fat kind. Why would we?

Rocco’s mother made herself a nice little avatar person and had a few happy hours trying out the games and exercises. Her nice little person happily zipped into a fetching penguin suit to compete in Penguin Slide – and was doing very well at that, and several other things. Rocco’s mother found she had surprisingly good balance. Because of this, she stupidly bragged to Rocco. A bad mistake, because Rocco has a competitive nature – and being a surfer, scoffed at the fact his aging mater might consider she could out-balance him at anything. He was sure he could do better. In a penguin suit, even.

Rocco set about making himself an avatar. A very cool one indeed – with spiky hair, sunglasses and a lime green outfit. Rocco’s mother *sigh* had to admit it was the height of coolness. Surreptitiously, in edit mode, she removed the spectacles she’d given herself. After all, she only wears them for reading and there are no reading activities to compete in. The fact she could whup Rocco’s arse in a spelling bee is her own personal and heavily guarded secret.

Rocco’s avatar zipped itself into the penguin suit – and even looked cool thus attired. He flashed backwards and forwards on the iceberg with gay abandon – not falling off once. Rocco’s mother, on the other hand, spent a fair bit of time flailing in the water. And was too obese tired to leap elegantly to catch the prized red fish (10 points each).  At the end of his turn, Rocco’s penguin leaped and cheered and punched the air. He then took his place at the top of the leaderboard. By this time, Rocco’s mother had broken out a packet of biscuits and settled down to watch whilst he took away, one by one, her records for Table Tilt, Ski Slalom and Tightrope Walking. In fact, he had so many turns at Ski Slalom that Rocco’s mother dropped off the leaderboard completely and will possibly forever remain unranked.

‘Look at it this way,’ Rocco smugly assured her, ‘It will give you something to aim for!’ There actually was something his mother would have liked to have aimed for. But one doesn’t do that to one’s only son. No matter how great the provocation. It also rankles slightly that Rocco’s body fitness test placed him right in the middle of IDEAL. In fact, it then proceeded to tell him he should aim to gain three kilos. There was no facility for file sharing – or Rocco’s mother would have happily downloaded some of hers into his fatbox.

On a happier note, Rocco’s mother is top of the leaderboard in Jogging. This is because Rocco can’t be bothered doing that. It would be beyond his dignity to run on the spot for 10 minutes in the middle of the living room when he could reap greater rewards in far shorter time at other activities. Nor will he try the yoga poses. To be perfectly honest, Rocco’s mother hasn’t attempted these either. She will wait until the holidays are over and she has the house completely to herself in order to pose in private.

There is some light on the horizon, however, Flygirl and Roo will both be visiting towards the end of the month. Flygirl has her own WiiFit and a very active, sporty partner to compete with at home. Roo is a gym junkie and jogs for miles and miles. Rocco’s mother hopes these two will prove formidable foe. Watch out, Rocco – your time may almost be up.

And bear in mind, your mother will always be able to whup your arse in a spelling bee. No amount of looking dashing in a penguin suit will ever change that …

.oOo.

The year of living vicariously …

So it’s here already – 2009. Somehow it arrived overnight, and this morning the old calendar went in the recycling, to be replaced with the January smiling face of Luna Park. This is probably meant to imply 2009 is going to be a good year. A fun year. We’ll see, won’t we? Rocco’s mother feels it’s far too early for enthusiasm. You can’t just go in there all trusting and la-de-da. You are most certainly likely to be shat upon, in order to be put in your place.

Rocco’s mother hasn’t made any resolutions. After all, if she’s enjoying doing it at the moment, she certainly isn’t likely to be wanting to give it up any time soon. The crap habits stay. This will, however, be the year of No Wank. There will be no Quality Time, no Getting Closure, no Absolutely Inner Child At The End Of The Day – or anything else which smacks of giving a damn. Because frankly, my dear, Rocco’s mother doesn’t.

Let’s face it, with the Hunter Gatherer and four Rt Honourables, surely there are enough people in her immediate family willing to do things on Rocco’s mother’s behalf? The only rule (which came into play when Flygirl went off to a military academy), is that Rocco’s mother only finds out what you’ve done after you’ve done it. Usually when the evidence is plastered all over Facebook. Rocco’s mother can then go, ‘woo woo WOO’ and be very impressed and feel she’s done it too. Not.

Rocco’s eldest sister, JoJo the Incredible, is going to help her husband build a house and plant a vineyard this year – in between amusing her two little girls, entertaining from scratch and being … well, incredible. Rocco’s mother gave her a pink tape measure for Christmas so she can measure things – because although JJ the I is one of the most enterprising and hard working young women Rocco’s mother knows, she still manages to be a girlie  and can easily lay bricks with one hand while balancing her chardonnay glass on the edge of the wheelbarrow with the other. Rocco’s mother has no understanding of how JJ the I came to be so I. It is baffling in the extreme.

Flygirl, Rocco’s second sister, will carry on as usual doing more skydiving, BASE jumping, hang gliding, hot air ballooning and making iced cupcakes in between sessions of scraping the mud from her combat boots. Rocco’s mother will wish she’d had the guts, several hundred kilos ago, to have done all those things. Sadly, even the cupcake icing is far beyond her capabilities these days. On a good day she can just about muster the energy to eat them. And that’s about all.

Rocco’s third sister, RooRoo, will be cool and elegant in 2009. She will whizz tirelessly backwards and forwards across the country dispensing cool drinks and hot towels and making encouraging noises to the mammoth lady in 10C who is desperately trying to pretend she doesn’t need the extension seat belt thingie. ‘Oh no, Madam – it’s not you, it’s us. Sometimes in the hot weather the seatbelts shrink. Please don’t worry that half your body is invading the space of the man next to you and, as we speak, oozing over his lap like some kind of invasive suet pudding on rollers. It’s of no consequence whatsoever – in fact, the gentleman is happy to have something to rest his laptop on – and could I bring you another pineapple muffin?’

Then there’s Rocco himself.  *sigh*. What are his plans for 2009? It is doubtful he has any, being the species of animal who plays it as it comes. The element of surprise is a Rocco trademark.  Hopefully, this will be the year he finishes his apprenticeship. Rocco’s mother still has hope it will be the year he meets his Moon Maiden. You remember, don’t you – the one with the degree in accountancy who can help him get his finances sorted? The one who will invite him to move in with her,  and fill his life with joy and abundance and delicious, squashy sofas filled with embroidered throw cushions? Rocco’s mother knows she is out there somewhere. (If she’s reading this, could she please contact CrimeStoppers immediately …  a small reward is offered.)

The Hunter Gatherer is going to do lots of gardening in 2009 and Rocco’s mother will sit on the back verandah with a long, cool iced coffee and watch him doing it. If he’d like to post photographs on Facebook (which he most certainly won’t), she’d happily go, ‘woo, woo, WOO’. As things stand, she will shout this over the railing to him and her words of encouragement (nay, gratitude), will waft gently through the palm trees and ferns and make him realise how much he’s appreciated.

Rocco’s mother is just about to open the new Barbara Vine novel and an extremely marvellous tin of marzipan chocolates. She will do these things herself, without any help from anybody. She wishes to thank the members of her family for making all this possible. Without them, she’d have been required to have a life …

.oOo.

This time, Rocco’s mother doesn’t have any idea what to call it …

Lately, on just about every level, Rocco’s mother feels old age is creeping up on her. And it’s not Rocco’s father. Things in general are going downhill, dropping off and seizing up in an alarming fashion. And that’s before she gets out of bed, even.

The most worrying thing seems to be the problem with RM’s memory. What? Her MEMORY. Ah, yes. And it’s not just a matter of trying to figure out where the frozen peas are – or even whether she’d remembered to buy them in the first place – but finding the right word to describe something. Where the word should be – and indeed, once was – a blank space mockingly waits. But Rocco’s mother finds she is increasingly unable to fill it.

A few weeks ago while visiting one of Rocco’s sisters in Darwin, RM and Flygirl were wandering around a shopping mall and came upon one of RM’s favourite things. And no, it wasn’t a chocolate-covered Alan Rickman wrapped in gold foil. She would have remembered that. It was a book sale. Rocco’s mother, as was only to be expected, fell on it with rapture and frenzied excitement, calling out to Flygirl – ‘Oh look – they’ve got those … those … calendar books.’

Flygirl raised an eyebrow. ‘Diaries,’ she suggested. It hit Rocco’s mother that she hadn’t been able to retrieve that word. It hadn’t been there. A programming glitch had occurred at the vital moment. Diaries? Surely she used to know that? Even yesterday, it had been part of her everyday vocabulary – flung into conversations in a random and cavalier manner whenever the occasion called for it. Which happened to be often. Which happened to be often, because as sure as bears mess themselves in the woods, Rocco’s mother is going to make sure she doesn’t go starting conversations where she needs to use the word … the word … that word any time soon.

It is alarming to suppose there are other words in there, silently becoming fainter and fainter until they slip forever out of the memory bank. Tomorrow, will Rocco’s mother tentatively request ‘filled bread’ when asking for a sandwich? Will she come down for breakfast and not recognise anybody, like Rocco’s father on the day he first wore his new spectacles? It scares Rocco’s mother to know she’d be utterly useless if called upon to witness anything. After being served in a shop and walking outside again, she is aware she would not be able to describe the shop assistant – or recognise her in the police line-up. When the police officer demands, ‘Where were you on the night of September 23?’ in an accusatory manner, Rocco’s mother would not have a clue. She would not recall shoplifting from Food-o-rama or whether she’d eaten the legs of the chocolate-covered Alan Rickman. She would possibly not remember what September was.

Some people are blessed with extraordinary memories. Do they purposely focus on every minute detail before they file it away – or is it entirely accidental? Where is the fairness in that? The first time Rocco’s parents visited Flygirl in Darwin, they ambled downtown one morning to enjoy an alfresco breakfast under shady trees in the early morning warmth of the city. The menu was written on a huge blackboard outside the cafe, so Rocco’s father made his selection. At the counter, he said, ‘I’ll have the Full Monty, please – without mushrooms.’ The lad behind the counter – who happened to be bald and British – frowned.

‘Does it say it comes with mushrooms?’

‘Er … I don’t know,’ Rocco’s father admitted. There had been so many menu options and permutations of breakfasty ingredients.

‘Well if it doesn’t say it comes with mushrooms, it doesn’t come with mushrooms,’ the lad said patiently. Which was fair enough. The breakfast, sans mushrooms, was very good indeed and enjoyed enormously by Rocco’s father, who only eats breakfast when he’s on holidays anyway and then makes an absolute pig of himself. 

A whole year or more later, Rocco’s parents returned to Darwin – by which time Rocco’s father was dying to reacquaint himself with the excellent breakfast – so he and Rocco’s mother headed downtown on their first morning and were happy to discover the alfresco cafe was still there in all its glory, blackboards cheerfully chalked in anticipation.

‘I’ll have the Full Monty, please,’ Rocco’s father told the lad behind the counter. And the lad eyed him up over the top of the coffee machine and baskets of freshly baked muffins, and said,  ‘… it still doesn’t come with mushrooms …’

.oOo.