There aren’t any trees in Chippendale. I see this now, this evening, as if I’m seeing it for the first time, as if I’m not stepping out the door of the Native Rose for the hundredth time to find this street treeless. Cleveland Street. There are telegraph poles here, a mile of them all along it, but there are no trees. Only telegraph poles, which used to be trees.
I look the other way, behind me, where there are trees. I can see the tops of the figs of Victoria Park, but they’re in Darlington, and beyond them the trees at the university, fenced off from us. Precious trees, they must be. I look down at my boots: here, on the footpath, in Chippo.
Keep looking down at these boots, until they stop swimming about beneath me. I’m a bit shickered, I see, and very possibly for the last time, for a while at least. I’ve been drinking here at the Rose since three, drinking my last pay too. None of which discredits the fact of there being no trees in Chippendale. There is not a struggling blade of grass to piss on in Chippo. Only telegraph poles.
‘Move it along, Yo.’ Jack’s fists smash down onto the back of my shoulders as he jumps off the step of the pub behind me, more shickered than me, on the rum for the last few.
‘Move it along, the pair of you.’ Cully closes the door after us, pretending he’s not happy with our efforts to empty our pockets into his till. We’re the last out. I’m almost always the last out. Round the corner into Shepherd Street, O’Gorman’s dragging his heels ahead of us, Finnerty and Nash ahead of him, two dozen or so heading home. Any ordinary Thursday evening, it could be, each of us having dutifully played our parts in the daily transference of cash from factory to publican.
‘Giz a smoke then.’ Jack takes the tin from my pocket and helps himself, leaning into me too hard, so that I fall over my feet and into the gutter – with the last of my tobacco flying over the road and mostly into a pile of horseshit.
‘Too clever, Jack,’ I thank him for it.
‘Oi sorry, Yo.’ He’s looking at the horseshit, reckoning the for and against.
I shove him along: ‘You spoon-headed idiot.’
But I soon pull him back as we near the corner of Pine Lane. The factory. Our factory. Foulds Boots, from which we got well and truly booted today. The low sun is coming off the windows on the building, making them golden, and Mr Foulds is standing beneath them, locking up, saying goodnight to Mrs Whitby who oversees the girls. Three hours ago he was saying he was sorry to us. Jack takes in a breath beside me, but before he lets it out again, I say: ‘Leave it.’
It’s not going to help us much to be in trouble as well as unemployed, and Foulds is not a bad sort of fella. At least he bothered with an explanation. It’s the fault of this ‘trade depression business biting in’, he said; and that the girls will take a third as much as us now that we’re men, he didn’t say. I turned twenty-one on the nineteenth of June, exactly six months ago today, should be grateful I was kept on that long, bad planning on my part that I didn’t see it coming. Didn’t look. Jack’ll be twenty-one come February, not that you’d know it, the veteran way he drinks, but that’s meant Foulds’d have to put his pay up too, or risk the fine from the inspector. He’s not a bad sort of fella, Mr Foulds, no. He wouldn’t underpay a man, wouldn’t risk a fine – he’s avoiding that by not employing any men at all.
It’s the week before Christmas; I was going to buy Aggie a new dress.
My own fist curls into a ball, a hot ball of anger. Useless anger. Foulds sees us over his shoulder and he’s quick to be off, going round the corner a block out of his way to the train. Home to his family. Somewhere in Petersham, he lives. There’d be plenty of trees there. I’ll bet he’s got a garden, with his own tree in it, kids hanging off it everywhere. I’ll bet he sleeps well in his bed, without much of a thought for us, if he has a thought at all.
‘It’s all sorry O’Paddy to some!’ Jack shouts after him, and I pull him back, pulling myself back too.
‘Leave it, Jack. It’s all O’Paddy to the cops too, you know.’
He stops still on the footpath. Staring at nothing, the uselessness coming over him too. Staring at the future, at tomorrow, no work to get to. Nothing.
Nothing but a worn out joke between us: ‘You know O’Paddy’s easier for them to spell,’ I say.
So he says: ‘I can’t spell your name either, Yo.’
And I say, ‘Can’t argue with that,’ as we start moving along again, because there isn’t any argument in it. Jack’s not a spoon, not really, he’s not ignorant, but he can’t spell, has trouble enough with his own name, Callaghan, despite Sister Joe’s efforts with the ruler, too long ago now. I can still feel it, though, smashing across the back of my own hand: Get to the Devil then, Eoghan O’Keenan. Get out! Couldn’t win an argument then, either.
Jesus, where am I going to now? Where am I going to find another job? And you know I’m not blaspheming with this wonder, Lord; I’m praying for the answer. It’s going to be the same story all over Chippo. I will knock and ask at every door, at every No Situations Vacant sign, at the knitting mills on Wellington Street, the shirtmakers on Abercrombie, the sweets factory at the corner of Mooregate and Daniels. I will take any work. But they’ll all be wanting girls, if they’ll be wanting anyone, paying them on air and lint and crumbs of peppermint. Not men. And not ones called Eoghan O’Keenan. Are men with names such as mine even considered to be men? Eoghan – How do you say that again? Yo-un, it’s not that hard – Owen will do if you’re not too keen on your whys, or you’re not my mother, pity her. Come again? Ah, forget it. Forget we have names at all. Or a need for living wages. What are we then? Dead men?
No, get away with that. I’m living, all right. Only pissed, more than usual, and for the last time, O’Keenan. It’s always the last time, isn’t it? It is, this time, unless I can get another wage of some kind. I tell Jack: ‘We should go up to Redfern in the morning, try at the Lebbo places.’ The Syrian factories; I’ve heard they’ve got a new one, bed linens and that, and their shirt makers have always got work on of one sort or another.
But Jack says: ‘The Lebbos?’ Turning his lip up as if I’ve just said let’s go and see about work picking the filth off the legs of cockroaches, never mind the ten minute walk to Redfern to save the tram fare.
A job’s a job, though, isn’t it? I need the money. I don’t care if it’s not the proper wage they’ll be offering, or what bargain makes the inspector never take a look in them Lebbo shops. We turn into Myrtle Street, our street, past Gibsons on the corner, the furniture factory, where I worked before Foulds, sweeping first, as a boy, and then lugging dressers and wardrobes and that, and no one’s working there now. It closed down a fortnight ago, laying everyone off: seventeen men and boys; the Finnertys have not got a man in work in their house now. Jesus. Remember when I got the job stitching at Foulds, though? I’d thought I was something special, with the machine work. I thought I was getting some skill at it. I was there nearly three years – three years, that’s a long time to be working anywhere in this world. But I know I do a good job when I’m at any sort of work: I have to. Why else would Foulds have kept me on so long on a man’s wage? Remember: I’ve never been sacked before this day. Not even from my first job stacking the bottles at Quirks cordials – the boss there put me on to Gibsons when he was closing up to move out west. Because I’m worth a job. I have to get another job. I will get another job, trade depression horseshit or no. And I’m getting another one – tomorrow.
‘Reckon I’ll go up and say hello to Hammo tonight – you coming?’ Jack says, picking up his pace with the idea.
‘No,’ I say; I won’t be going up to say hello to Mick Hammond tonight, or any night. But I hear what Jack’s suggesting: Hammo’s done better for himself than anyone else we know, going in with Tex Coogan, looking after his girls for him at the knocker at Strawberry Hills. Why not be the dirty O’Paddys we were born to be? And end up dead quickly too: Tex Coogan is after a share of the coke trade up at the Cross, is the word. I tell Jack: ‘You should leave that alone too.’
He doesn’t answer me; he says, ‘See you later on, then,’ and he ducks under the verandah of his house, gate banging behind him, with the number seven swinging upside down on it beside the eight of number eighty-seven, hanging on by a nail.
I want to shout after him, tell him again, he should leave that alone, but I don’t. It’s his business what he does, and we’ve got different concerns. I cross the road, following the eternal fart of boiled cabbage and bacon bones home: if that’s what you might call the place, when you’re not calling it the gateway to Satan’s arsehole. One hundred and twenty-two Myrtle Street, but there’s no number on this gate.
And I can’t believe my luck today as I find the Lord of Darkness himself is here in visitation: the front door’s wide open and I can see right through to the kitchen, the shape of his boots stretched out there by the table.
My father is home, and far too early for it. It can’t be six-fifteen yet. He won’t have lost his job today, too, I can be certain of that: he’s a carter for Tooths and rusted on with them. Only two minutes at a stagger up on George Street West, but he’s never home before nine o’clock at least, staying on at Ryan’s, the tap next door, as long after closing as is necessary to be certain my mother will be thoroughly, and I might say mercifully, unconscious with the Royal Reserve on his return, if he comes home at all.
Jesus. No blasphemy in this one either. I am a dead man now. He’s heard I’ve been sacked, hasn’t he. It’s my wages pay the rent and put food on that table.
I’m not for a bashing. Fuck this. No. Not now, I’m not having this now, too. I turn around, going to the Callaghans’, I’ve decided – I’ll go and say hello to Hammo tonight after all. But I don’t even get across the road. A motor car speeds past through a puddle that splashes right up over the pickets of the verandah and onto my boots. I see the shape of a woman’s hat, in the backseat, as the motor heads round into Abercrombie at the Oak, a red hat in a white motor, taking a fast shortcut through nowhere. I could hurl myself after it, hurl myself across the roof of that motor to get away, get anywhere, but that Aggie chooses now to hurl herself at me: ‘Yo-Yo!’
My little sister, wrapping herself around my knees, preventing any sort of escape, settling my fate.
‘Evening, Ag.’ I pick her up, little slip of nothing that she is. Seven, and small for it, smaller still under her head full of wild black curls, and telling me through her lost front teeth, ‘You smell like beer.’
‘I’m sure I do,’ I tell her. Aggie: her blue eyes bright and fearful and wanting. Very possibly hungry. I stop still in her eyes for this second, her skinny arms around my neck as if they might afford me some protection. I say: ‘We’ll go out and get some chips in a bit, yeah?’
‘Eoghan!’ he shouts. Our father.
Aggie nods and I put her back down on the doorstep. She slips into the front room, where she’ll hide under our mother’s bed till he’s finished.
‘Eoghan, you scruttery fuck, get in here!’ No scrape of the kitchen chair. He’s not going to bother to get up and find me; he’s so sure I’ll come, to save our mother the bashing instead, or delay it, while anyone who hears or cares decides it’s Kath O’Keenan, our mother, the one who has trouble with the drink. Jesus, but you know I could run and leave them both to it, run as both my brothers have before me.
But that Ag is waiting, and she’s waiting for me, because I’m all that she has, bag of horseshit that I might be.
I’ll take what’s coming.
‘Screan ort! ’ He smashes his fist down onto the table.
Yes, our father, telling me I’m damned. At least I might still be pissed enough not to feel it too much. Then me and Ag’ll go out for some chips. We’ll have to go to Kennedy’s, though, up on Regent Street by the tracks: they’re open late.
That’s gorgeous, Ollie – gorgeous. I love those bebe roses.’ Mother touches the brim of the vagabond I’m trimming, her lips brushing my cheek before she’s out the door in a heady whirl of Chanel and jade chiffon. ‘Toodles.’
‘Will you be late?’ I turn to see the tassels of her handbag disappear past the COSTUMIÈRE on the window. I stick my needle back in the pincushion and frown at the backwards lettering, fresh gold lettering that is Mother’s response to international financial catastrophe: The middlings will let us down now, you’ll see, she said of the ladies of modest means and the majority of our clientele, so we must go upwards, Ollie. Up. Up. Up. So that our window and our card now glitter:
– Exclusif Couture et Chappellerie Féminine –
paris ♦ london ♦ new york ♦ sydney
And we’ve just this morning taken delivery of new ‘mahogany’ display cabinets and one velveteen chaise. In ivory. With gold brocade trim. So ostentatious, so obvious, I can hardly look at the thing.
Don’t give me that face, Ollie, Mother said when the men brought the furniture in, you’ll get frown lines. If you’d be happier with ‘Miss Greene’s Hats & Frocks’ you’re welcome to it. She waved at the door: Out in – in – in Homebush or somewhere. You can dress chickens as a sideline.
That made me laugh, and appreciate her efforts, as I always do, if not always the sense of them. She’s doing all this for me, to give me a chance, signing the lease here the week I missed my debut with a head cold I didn’t have, which in April will be two years ago. It’s not as though other offers of society or dancing with smelly old Barker College boys have run thick and fast since, and it’s not as though I’d want them to, not now anyway. I love this shop. Our little salon, on the second floor of the Strand, up in the gods, snug between the optometrist’s and Monty’s Photography. It’s me, my heart is here, and when I’m here, dreaming and scheming up my designs, I can forget that I’m five feet and eleven inches tall and that all I possess of the Greenes’ wealth and position is the prominent placing of an aquiline nose. If we were in Paris, you’d be muse to a thousand, Ollie, Mother says, you’re gorgeous. She’s blind. Love is, isn’t it? I’m eighteen, and three-quarters, and no one’s ever looked at me as if I might be something worth looking at; certainly not the way Mother does. Don’t look at that chaise either. Good God. Atrocity.
Back to my bebe roses then, my work, my salvation from all things atrocious, and our only means of paying for them. What I can’t do with the twist of a ribbon isn’t worth doing, and Miss Min Bromley is most certainly going to look gorgeous in this hat. We’re designing her whole trousseau, and this is one of two afternoon casuals I’m creating for her. She’s a very sweet blonde, and this shell pink is going to double her sweets so her girlfriends writhe in envy and must have one too – and won’t ever get it because I only do one-offs. Minerva Bromley is also the daughter of one of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank. If she’s pleased with her trousseau, we might indeed be travelling upwards. I stab my needle through the base of my next bebe with her other, less appealing connection: Minerva Bromley is also the cousin of Cassie Fortescue, with whom I went to school at Pymble Ladies, and the taunts still seem as nasty as they ever were: Sticky, sticky, stick insect. Is she a bug or is she a boy?
I transform into a Parisienne muse now as I stitch. I’ll show Cassie and her ilk. One day, I’m going to be a costumière of international renown. I’m going to be as famous and fabulous as Coco Chanel.
‘Ollie?’ the shop bell dings with my name.
It’s Glor, my friend, my newest and in some odd way my first real friend. Gloria Jabour, from downstairs. I turn and smile: ‘Hello, lovely one.’
‘Ollie, it’s six-thirty,’ her smoky amber eyes rouse on me. God but she’s relentlessly lovely: I don’t see her all day and it catches me up as if I’m seeing her anew. ‘Dad says it’s a mad mob of riffraff down at the Quay – he doesn’t want you waiting for the ferry after dark, and neither do I. Come on, knock-off time.’
‘All right.’ I smile at that too: Mr Jabour takes his fatherly responsibilities so seriously he extends them to every child he knows. He’s also our favourite and exclusive purveyor of all things silk. Jabour’s Oriental Emporium – he’s got a stock of gold-shot flouncery in at the moment that looks like it wafted in from Persia via magic carpet. I ask Glor: ‘Anything come in that I must have?’ ‘Mmm, maybe a couple of samples,’ she says with a teasing grin. ‘Some fantastic Fujis, tough as leather, soft as cloud – in candy stripes. But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow. Dad’s locking up now.’
That he is: I hear the grille screech and thump over their shopfront, echoing up from the ground floor. A newly installed contraption, unfortunately necessary: there’ve been three robberies, in this arcade alone, this month. I’m compelled myself now to check our new cabinets are locked, the three of them we spent most of today fussing about with, arranging and rearranging our perfumery, our jewellery, our hosiery and glovery, and as I half-gag on an acrid whiff of the gleaming new polish I take some comfort at the thought that thieves would have a hard time heaving these things out into the street: well made, at least, even if the ‘mahogany’ is painted-on pine.
‘Oh Ollie, the chaise – doesn’t it look grand?’ Glor spots the atrocity, as if it might be possible to miss it, and she bends to run her hand over the ivory velveteen, that firm, graceful sweep over fabric that says she could true-up the edges of the air if she had need to measure it.
But I look away, and I say, ‘Grand, yes.’ Distractedly, pretending my locking of the stockroom door now requires my full concentration, as I fight off a rush of resentment: well, you would think it grand, wouldn’t you, Gloria. Chi-chi showiness designed to attract those who like glittery things. And money: all Arabs worship money, don’t they. Equal rush of remorse for these thoughts as I think them, too; as if the Jabours don’t work hard for their money. As if I’m any better. Above money. Still, a nasty little voice says I am. Grand. I’m the only child of Viscount Mosely, Lord Shelby Lawrence Ashton Greene. Shouldn’t have a shop at all; shouldn’t be worried about the debt this stupid furniture has put us in.
I keep a grip on the stockroom door handle, to keep this all locked in. Glor knows nothing of it, of course, no one here does – it’s our private atrocity. As far as the wider world’s concerned, poor old Daddy was lost in the war, and I would be happy to believe that if it weren’t for the birthday cards, the payment of my school fees, and these days a contemptibly pitiful allowance that barely buys my thread – £15 per month. How old does he think I am? Ten? He’s in Kenya at present, on a hunting expedition, and I hope a lion eats him. Forgive me. Mother might’ve picked herself up from the divorce and carried on, sent home from whence she came, but I didn’t; haven’t. I was only seven when he put us out to sea –
‘Oh! And these fresh flowers, too?’ Glor is now gushing over the white roses, the ones that are sitting on the magazine table by the chaise; the bold extravagance of two dozen white roses, which arrived this afternoon at about five past three.
‘Oh yes,’ I laugh, not looking at them either, and my laugh is so brittle Glor guesses that these are not part of Mother’s refurbishment.
‘Oh.’ A say-no-more-about-it sort of oh.
The Jabours will have seen Mother flying by their window, jade chiffon whirling out to the waiting cab. His cab. This barrister chap: Bartholomew Harley. A criminal barrister, chasing Mother. And Mother chasing in return. Darling Em, the card says, see you at 6.15 – try not to be too late. Bart x. She only kept him waiting ten, if that. He’s something heroic around town, name in the papers for putting some terrible razor-gang crook behind bars, and he’s taking Mother to the Merrick Club, for the third time now. Which is where they met: in the Jazz Room. Which is part of the refurbishment: Mother parading our creations on the dancefloor of the latest and most popular place in town on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Not a bad idea at all: her beauty alone is enough to draw attention. No one would ever guess, to look at her, that she herself is the seamstress, and no one could be more admiring of her glamour than me. But really. She didn’t get in until almost two o’clock on Sunday morning. She’s not known him a fortnight. This in itself isn’t entirely unusual, but the Darling Em and the spectacular nature of these roses are. I don’t like it. I haven’t met him – I never meet them – but I don’t like him either.
‘Ollie?’ Glor’s concern is the sound of loveliness itself, but I turn away from her again, packing my bits and pieces into the drawers of my work table, brushing up my squiggles of thread ends. ‘Why don’t you come to ours for dinner? You could stay the night – Mum would love to have you over.’
Yes, I know she would, and genuinely: if Mrs Jabour could have the whole world over to her house in Randwick for dinner she would never be happier. But I can’t accept the invitation, not tonight. I’d be there ten minutes, squeezed in amongst their big boisterous happy family, half of Beirut round the table, Mrs Jabour telling me I’m too thin, while her sister, Aunty Karma, pinches my arm to demonstrate it, and I’d be wanting to run. I tell Glor: ‘Thanks, lovely one, but I’ve got so much to do with this trousseau, I’m going to plough on with it – at home, don’t worry.’ I’m already reaching for a hatbox.
‘If you’re sure . . .’
‘I’m sure. Toodle-oo. Off you scoot. I won’t be far behind you.’ ‘Promise.’ She rolls those delicious Arabian eyes, because I will linger a little longer here. I always do. ‘Lunch tomorrow,’ she insists. ‘Just you and me. Pearson’s, yes? Before the silly season gets too silly and we don’t have time to scratch ourselves.’
‘Yes, that sounds fab.’ I wave her out, and I will have lunch with her at Pearson’s tomorrow. Plate of sweet, fat summer prawns: yummy. I’ll look at those candy stripe Fujis in the morning, too, get to them before anyone else does – could be just the thing for a kimono I’ve half-conceived for Min Bromley’s loungery.
But for now I go back to my ribbons, back to half-finished afternoon casual bebes, and I’m about to toss a card of the pink satin into the box when I decide, no, I’m not going to work on the trousseau at all tonight, not taking this vagabond home with me. I’m going to have some fun of my own. Design something especially for Glor. Something snazz, for Christmas. I do love her so. But what shall I make her? It takes a while to come to a decision, staring into the limbs of our hat tree, our style samples that ramble over the steel display frame that covers almost the whole of the back wall, but finally I see it: a little taupe sisal mid-brim I’d almost forgotten we had. I pluck it and pack it into the box with some silver and bronze ribbons – colours that will look more than gorgeous against those amber eyes and that creamy, flawless skin.
I pat the lid down on the box with that swish of good feeling I get whenever I’m about to begin something new. Not knowing what it will be until it is, letting inspiration take me. With a little help from Vogue: I lay the October and November issues in my portfolio and clip it closed, swing it over my arm, hatbox following, and as I lock the door of the shop behind me, I look up through the glass roof of the arcade to see the sky is the most divine shade: gold-shot teal. Magic-carpet sky.
And it is getting on for late: bonggg . . . bonggg . . . bonggg . . . the Town Hall clock strikes seven as I scoot down the stairs around the lift well, through this dim cavern of shut-up shops, only the Aristocrat Cafe across from Electrolux still open, at the George Street end, and it’ll close in a minute as well. Out on Pitt, Ned the barrow man is shutting up too, tossing his leftover bits and pieces of fruit into a crate and tipping his hat to me, ‘Night, miss.’
‘Goodnight to you too, Ned,’ I reply under my brim, already scooting past him.
Mindful of Mr Jabour’s warning of mad mobs, I quicken my steps, keep my eyes on my mary-janes and my mind on their rhythm, soon joined by the oompah-pah of a Salvo band playing ‘Good King Wenceslas’ in front of the Commonwealth Bank on the corner of Martin Place. I don’t stop to hunt about for change to pop in their box, though; I’ve barely got tuppence for a tram myself and whatever I do have I shall be spending on Pearson’s prawns. I don’t look up.
There is quite a mob out tonight, mad or not, a lot of shoes. I keep my eyes on my mary-janes; I really must give these a fresh coat of paint: starting to look like crumbling stucco. Certainly can’t afford a new pair. Glance up as I near the corner of Hunter Street, where Bartholomew Harley’s chambers are, and where Mother met him for lunch at the Tulip on Tuesday. Bart. I really don’t want to think about him, them, about what this might mean for us, if . . . No, that won’t happen. I just hope she’s safe with him. I’m sure she is; of course she is. She knows what she’s doing, even if it might not be immediately apparent to anyone but herself; even if the neckline on that jade chiffon plunges just a little too . . . dramatically.
Take a deep breath. Take in the salty smells of the harbour drifting up on the warm breeze and I’m here, at the Quay. Glance up again as I cross the broad boulevard of tramlines and there’s no one about. No mad mob anyway, only the normal quantity of lateferry stragglers, and a few tramps, the usual poor souls; the blind man with his cup and his sign under the awning of the kiosk: SPARE A BOB FOR A DIGGER. Not from me tonight, I’m afraid – my ferry is here, I see, and I just about scoot through the old beggar for it as the deckhand reaches for the board rails of the gangway.
‘Please, wait!’ I call out across the wharf, hatbox clattering against portfolio.
He doesn’t look up.
‘Wait!’ I shout, and I make a leap for it.
‘All right, miss, where’s the fire?’ He shakes his head as I thump aboard, bumping his shoulder. He says some other disparaging thing but I don’t hear it as the whistle blows.
Blowing me and my embarrassment round to a lonely seat up near the bow. Where the water looks strung with fairy lights, there are so many vessels dotted about – it’s a dream. I close my eyes for a second and see a beaded evening cloche: teal, gold, pearl. Mmmm. Open them again as the ferry chugs under the great claw of the Bridge, as it is so far, this Dawes Point end. Look out across the harbour at its matching pair in the north, at Milsons Point. Two monstrous, grasping claws, they seem. Black against the teal dream sky.
I don’t know about this Bridge creature. It’s a necessary evil: that awful ferry crash with the schoolchildren last month, and half-a-dozen near misses every year, the harbour is just too crowded at peak times. This Bridge will also be something heroic, some kind of wonder of the world, if it succeeds in holding itself up, so they say. But no matter how wondrous it is, it’s going to ruin the view. Our view over Lavender Bay. What will that do to the value of our house? It’s only a tiny thing, a tiny, leaky-roofed cottage, but it’s all we own, apart from hats and frocks. No one thinks about that sort of thing, do they, when they go off and build a bridge. Oh dear, your home is worthless now. Tough luck. Be grateful they didn’t demolish our house with a wrecking ball, I suppose.
I shiver with the cooler breeze coming straight off the water. I shiver with the wonder of how precarious everything seems, and not just for Mother and me. For everyone, everything. Whole stock exchanges tumbling into the drink . . .
Look up into the great North Claw, reaching out into nothing. Imagine working up there, catching fifty tons of girder or what have you, dangling off a crane perched high on the edge of nowhere. I’d rather not. Listen to the clang, crunch, grrr of the workshops below, grinding on all day and night, and be grateful we don’t live at Milsons Point. Good God, that must be appalling to live on top of. But I look up at the claw again now as the ferry pulls away towards McMahons Point and it’s a different view altogether. I see the zigzag that will run along the whole arch, soaring from point to point, a glimpse of the majesty of it. The genius of its design.
And I’m swished right the way through with inspiration at it. When the ferry pulls in to the wharf, I’m the first to thump off, ‘Excuse me!’, bashing a man in the leg with my hatbox on my way. I don’t stop to say sorry: I fly up the steps to the ridge top and home. To make a start on my creation for Glor. I’ve seen it now. I know exactly – exactly – what I want it to be.
Excerpted from The Blue Mile by Kim Kelly. Copyright © 2014 by Kim Kelly.
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