The clock in the hall struck five o’clock on a summer afternoon 1972, a Friday. My skinny pale legs ran around the billiard table chanting ‘oh my hairy Godfather’ from the Jackson Five cartoon from last week, poking out and putting back the net pockets at the corners, at the sides, in turn as I
passed. It would make the world tick and all would be well.
Run number seven, quick another, seven is an odd, have to have an even. My body moved
past the stocked up seventies velour and beaten-copper bar. Its amber stained glass sides caught the light like an alluring world of golden yellow.
Like a little pretend shop, it waited for its customers, its lined up bottles with exotic names, funny textures, colors and smells; Bailey’s Irish Crème, Crème De Menthe, Cinzano, Bacardi, Johnny Walker, Ouzo, Vodka and Cherry Advocat. Its friends the glasses, living in packs, neatly lined up, symmetrical and in even numbers, catching light as I ran. A melted beer bottle novelty ashtray saying ‘where there’s life, there’s butts’ sat freshly wiped but for three new stand-ins so far, scrunched up like twisted little yellow tipped bodies laying in the palm of this little glass god. A wind up carriage carrying dainty doll-like glasses called from across the bar to make the tinkle music go again by taking out a glass.
Held my breath on seven, that would make seven invisible. Seven would cease to exist. Phew, run number eight. Another chant. There was a sensing, quicker, far more remote than thought, a knowing carried somewhere in the magic of my ritual that this run, number eight would somehow ensure, provided I had got it perfectly right and chanted at exactly the right time and remembered to do and undo all of the pockets with equal rhythm between each, that there’d be no bashing for me today. I’d be protected.
Eight was done, but shit, it was nine now. Nine and I’d breathed on nine. It would be undone. Number nine was an odd number. They felt funny, odd numbers, asymmetrical and out of control,
quick, onto number ten. My last chance for perfection. I could stop at ten, if I got it all right. Ten was a full stop kind of thing, an ending. It was time for the big wish. No fights at the next party, no bottles smashing, no guns, no blood, no smashed glass. I was gonna be nine someday soon.
The doorbell rang, filling my body with the repetitive 70s bing bong that thrilled my soul no end. I forgot my task entirely, a soldier suddenly plunged back into civilian life. I flung open the door.
It was Terry, standing in the summer heat, come over to swim in the pool with younger brother in tow.
‘Your place’, I ordered racing past her and down the steps like a wild thing. Her brother made his way into my house and Terry came after me around the corner, trying to keep up.
I stopped at the phone box, the tall skinny little glass room with the ringing bells. Terry came up and I laughed at her out there in the exposed world, a human fish staring out from my world under glass. She pushed her way in through the doors and picked up the receiver on the old black column style pay phone.
‘Make it ring, make it ring’, I ordered.
Terry was the master of the phone box. She dialled 199 and hung up, and the phone rang
like auditory stars falling in this glass heaven. I was blissed. She picked up and put the receiver down again, not much amused. At ten this stuff was starting to bore her. She dialled a number and waiting for it to pick up, flicking the stirrup which held the receiver with a ‘click’, ‘click’ till it made the free of charge connection to the voice on the end of the phone.
‘Is Mr Wall there?’, ‘Is Mrs Wall there?’…. ‘What’s holding up you house then’, she said into the receiver. Click. A smile.
I acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of this country throughout Australia, and their connection to land and community.