Myne [a short story]
Title of story: - Myne.
Words - - 8000
Hi, my name is Myne. My little nephew, Sconhead, named me that, it made me so proud; I became that name because I wanted to be his personal property. I added the y instead of an i merely to make it look right on paper whilst keeping it’s implication. When he calls me, it is the finest sound in the World…. Myne!
Before we came to Australia I used to live in Liverpool, England, I was really happy there; I had a canal to swim in, a playground of railway tracks, a vast area of fully stacked woodyards, huge warehouses and the ever so busy docks with their one- o’clock gun that went ‘Boom!’ every day scaring the shit out of every pigeon on the waterfront and causing them all to fly up at the same time and form a cloud of beating wind-jammers. Ha, I always remember me Da saying: - ‘That gun does the work of all the bosses and foremen on the whole of Merseyside.’ His reply, to my why? Has always stuck with me: - ‘Because every man-jack stops work for dinner spot on time, but without that gun their dinner hour would stretch by a half, and –as if a bonus- it gets rid of all those flying rats from their properties… if only for a fleeting minute or two!’
Sconhead didn’t even exist then, and I was called Peewee.
Me Ma says I’m a born Scouser and my memories of those times make me feel it is good to have been one; there was adventure, fun, many games, lots of laughs and my friends were close in all we did, ran from …and …yeh… battled with during our many trespasses on those docklands.
That was when Sconhead came into my life….before he was born! Never forget the time I first heard about him, never forget the way I took to wanting him in my life; never did –to date- never shall, shall always remember!
Come, I shall treat you to an indelible memory plucked from my mind but as fresh as the day it went in: - March 1st 1952, Liverpool dockland, flats with a view of the docks and the mouth of the River Mersey from almost every window:- -
10 year old Peewee gets up: - Saturday yippee! -No school- Have to wear me pumps, mind you me shoes is that scuffed from climbin it won’t really matter if I scuff them more.
Not the same in the house this morning, me Da’s got a face on him like a lost bet, and me Ma’s face is sad, her hair is a mess like my mop always is. Me Ma calls me a mop cos I’m so skinny and me hair is always hangin over me head except when I get it bowl-cut, but it soon grows back into a mop.
Where’s me Ninny, she’s usually in the kitchen doin summit. Ah, she’s left toast, I’ll have that, have to put the kettle on though, empty some water out so it boils quicker, and saves gas… just enough for a cuppa. Where the strainer? –There it is! - Wonder how much water has been through that lot of leaves, shall I dump it or what? - Take a chance, at least it’ll be warm even if it’s weak. R-Kate must be in bed, maybe me Ninny is as well, ha, two lazies together in the room. Not really, they both work hard, all our family work hard.
Glad me uncle Frank helped me make that trap with bob-wires yesterday. Me uncle Frank is clever, he’s got his own engineering firm, says the bob-wires lets the birds in but won’t let them out. Hope it works. I’ll dive down to the corn mill and see if I’ve caught any micks [pigeons] in it. Oh, that’s maybe why me Ma is upset; cos I came home dirty and smelly last night – couldn’t help it really, had to put me trap up on that flat roof of the corn silo. Naw! Couldn’t be that cos she only hit me, she didn’t call me a little ‘B’ which she does when she’s really mad at me. I know I’m not a ‘B’ really though, cos she says I’m not after she’s cooled down. Ha, then she wallops me again –for me havin made her mad to begin with… she says. Maybe she’s lost summit… summits is really up though. Hmmn, nice toast that, I’ll take that other piece as well.
Door, someone’s comin in. It’s me Ninny and R-Kate.
So I sit there like a giant pair of ears munchin my toast as they head straight into the living room to mom and dad. ‘Says she’ll do it for her.’ Ninny’s voice says, like she’s a news reader. –Do what?- my nosey head thinks. ‘I’m against it myself, s’not right!’ She adds. –What?- My brain asks then tells the ears to get bigger and wider.
‘Yeh, well it’s me, isn’t it?’ R-Kate says with one of her kick-cheeky voices. ‘An his dad can’t help, cos he’s gone!”
Me Ma then puts the shits up me then with a loud outburst. ‘Oh yeh, it’s you alright…. Always fuckin-you… you fuckin.. No thought for us, for our pride!!’ There’s a scuffle and shouts from me Ninny. “Don’t hit her Ann, don’t!” Then my Dad butts in. They are all talkin in half shouts and shrieks… ‘Bla-bla-Bla –ABORTION- Bla Blab la bla!’
Abortion??? What’s that I challenge my pea brain to tell me.
Suddenly hush! Me Da’s voice, ‘Quiet now! Calm down yous lot. Is he still having his breakfast?’ That’s gotta be me, I’m the only one in here. So I look towards the kitchen sink like I’m daydreamin as my Ma comes in. ‘Here son.’ I turn lookin surprised, which turns real as she hands me two bob. ‘Go on out - - till tea time, willyer?’ Blimey askin me, and givin two shilling, a whole 24 pence. Normally she just says piss-off! And I’m gone. I was goin anyway, down to the corn mill on the docks to check me trap.
‘Ta Ma.’ I try to see her eyes but she turns once I take the coin, speaking as she goes but in a very sorry voice that sort of vanishes as she does - - ‘Be good!’
Kids -I know- are to be seen but not heard, big grown up stuff goin on in there. R-kate is 17 so she’s old, me Ma and Da is, an me Ninny, bloody-ell she’s older than old, older than these tennies [tenements] we live in. I used to have a granddad but me Ninny killed him with her rollin-pin, self defense they all said it was. Ha, nobody goes near her now, specially when she’s bakin. I do, I like to lick the bowls.
Right, get the heck outta here in case Ma changes her mind about this two-bob. Vamoose!
R-Logger is me cousin, he’s R-kid, I’m R-kid to him, his sister –Pauline- is R-kid as well and we are all R-kid to each other especially family and close friends, know-what-I-mean? Anyway R-Logger has a loft in his backyard, we keep pigeons in it. He loves them and I love them so we do it together. He’s the boss though is R-logger cos he’s older  and he shows me everything I wanna see and tells me everything I wanna know so I asks him about this abortion thing. ‘Me Ma used to call me an abortion.’ He tells me with a smile, then adds, with another type of smile: - ‘Or the Milkman’s.’ Then he looks me straight in the eye. ‘Who’s getting the abortion then?’ ‘Don’t know.’ Shrugs Me. ‘Just heard it before; me Ma an everyone all arguing and that word came out. Me Ma was fumin like a bloody volacano blowin up she was.… Think she went to hit R-Kate….
……And now he knows what Logger knows….
…I climbed the wall and took to the Seeky tunnel on my own. This manky, dark tunnel used to be a test of being brave for us, but it’s black scariness doesn’t bother me as I trespass it this time. Always like to be on my own when me-ead is muddled and it’s muddled like-mad now. This mixed up feeling has grown on me most of the day as me and R-Logger went and got the pigeons out me trap. The great feeling at having got two real ringer-racers out the trap has drowned as me muddle waters rose up; I was thinking more and more about this abortion thing and R-Kate…an this baby.
R-Kate isn’t a murderer, she just isn’t. Usually we dodge the puddles in the dark Seeky . Those dripping drips drip from it’s ceiling which is the bottom of the canal, but I found myself just walking through them and ignoring the water as it flooded my pumps with a squelch. I didn’t really care about bumping into the iron bars and other stuff, which is half buried and sticks out from the floor. I didn’t flinch even as some bits tore into my legs to rake the skin back and cause blood to flow cos I knew R-Kate was not a killing murderer. By the time I had got to the other side of that Seeky tunnel I was black like the soot and clinkers that had been dumped in there by the shunting goods trains what run in the adjacent rail-tunnels; they regularly shunt through them to stop and dump at will. My legs were cut to bleeding and my hands were dirty because I had used them to push myself up after falling a few times…. But I didn’t care. I love R-Kate and I know she likes me plenty. I used to sleep with her before she moved into me Ninny’s room and she used to cuddle me when my tooth hurt or if I was upset, we used to be funny together, pillow fighting and that, sometimes mad at one another and she would snarl at me at breakfast but before she left for school she would hug me and smile… she’s not a murderer, she wouldn’t kill a little baby…. I know!
The boy emerges from the Seeky and climbs the steep embankment, which leads to an eight foot wall overwhich he goes to land on the canal bank, then as if to recount his steps -for the canal passes over the Seeky before heading it’s course for Leeds over 100 miles away- he sets off aimlessly whilst the night draws in.
Meanwhile worry is setting into a troubled but somewhat calmer household at the fact of Pewee’s seat not having been taken and the oven now crisping his meal… something it had never done at tea-time - ever.
By chance Logger calls with news of the birds they had caught having settled and is surprised at the onslaught of questions about Peewee especially so at the fact of him not appearing for his tea. Something tells Logger it is due to the abortion thing he had addressed, which he relates to his worried Aunt, Uncle, Nin and uncle Frank.
Searching goes on well into the night, calling, shouting, looking in every nook and cranny of that dockland with Logger leading Peewee’s friends for they are agile and know everywhere Peewee would dare to go….
Finally … A woman walking her dog along the canal footpath, fifteen miles away from the docks, sees this whippet of a child just walking, looking but not seeing, covered in dirt and cuts like an urchin out of a Dickens novel, passing her like she did not exist and ignoring her inquiry about his wellbeing, she hurries off to the local police station where she appeals for help for the waif.
Meanwhile, cold and hunger are rattling him as the teeth of them begin to consume his muddled state.
‘Bloody-eck it’s cold now it’s like icy arrows stickin in me.’ He says as he blinks. ‘ Jesus, Just don’t know how far you walk when your head is muddled. Where about am I now? Here’s a bridge, I’ll go up onto the road and check where I am. - I’ll ask these coppers……….
….And that is how I –eventually- came to be talking in the big-people’s world with R-Kate about this abortion thing. ‘I’m too young Peewee.’ She said with tears in her eyes while we sat by the roaring fire that is normally dying fast at this very late hour. ‘I don’t want to be tied down, I just don’t think I could cope.’ I slumped my head down from her shoulder onto her lap and stared at the flames as they danced and swayed as if to our mood. ‘Couldn’t you let me have the baby R-Kate?, I’d look after it good for you.” Her hand landed ever so gently upon my head and began to stroke. It felt good. She wasn’t a murderer, I just knew… but was really confused by her saying she couldn’t cope; I just knew she would make a good mum because she was great with me and always had been. ‘Please.’ Says I sleepily. ‘Let me have it.’…..please.
End of chapter
When I woke I felt I had met this child for abortion in my sleep, and was burning with the idea that it was to be a fact of life, not death. Ninny shook her head with sadness when I told her it had to be. ‘I’ve tried son, but it is Kate’s decision really. Lord knows it is hard enough to bring up a child with a man beside you, but alone and disgraced.’ Her head bowed but continued to slowly shake. She touched my head like in those pictures of a holy man blessing someone, then forced a smile. Although I didn’t get the ‘disgraced’ bit, I did understand that kids have to have a mum and dad; one looks after- the other works and brings in the money. I could look after, R-Kate could work then, when I got older, I could work, and R-Kate could look after.
Ninny listened to my plan then lifted a hand up to wipe away a tear. ‘Oh Peewee, if only life could be ran as children saw it; so simple things would be. I love you son but you are just going to have to be brave on this.’ Then she held my face tight-still with two hands and lowered hers to look me in the eyes; Her big hands each side forming a tunnel. Face to face, eyes to eyes. Beyond her wrinkled, facial skin her eyes had depth, a depth I had never seen because of my rushing lifestyle, for a few seconds we merged; those pools of eyes into a giant pond. My wishes being her wishes… but how, how would it happen… How???? ‘Just be brave about this!’ she said once more then let go and moved off, I think to go and cry.
The next few days seemed to be music days with R-Kate in her room playing love songs that would sneak out from the cracks of her door and croon down the lobby like a sleepy wanderer. Words like: - I’ll never smile again –and- You’d be nice to come home to –with- Just walking in the Rain and Sentimental Journey regularly lifting the silence of our home but it was Johnny Ray and his song ‘Cry!’ that sort of sent a message to me; she wasn’t merely listening to songs she was hurting herself with words… wishing them to chase away her devils whilst hoping for them to be true. When ever I made an excuse to go into her room her eyes would be red from crying and it made me want to cry too.
I wasn’t as much fun with my mates while this was all in the pot, had to walk away from them one day especially when –as did often happen- the subject of local gossip came to the tip of my friend’s tongues; R-Kate and what was in her belly. Then into my ears; Been shagging has she? Whose been at her then? It’ll be a little bastard! No bastards in our family said the one whose mother often flung such spears at him, without saying sorry afterwards… an come to think of it he had flaming-red hair but his mum and dad’s was jet-black. I’d never thought of that before but didn’t feel like swapping bricks so I just said I wasn’t well and walked off into the mist of what to do next.
It was like the whole world was closing in, shrinking onto the fact that R-Kate was pregnant and it was not a happy thing because she was not married. That being the thing I had not understood when abortion was first bandied about…. Now I was getting to understand. If you’re married be happy, if not… kill!
Well I now got serious, no way is killing gonna happen no way, I was going straight home and saying so… right away!
Into the area of our tenements I marched and straight up to our door which I flung open with a bang and stormed in…. but nobody was home.
Me Ma, Da and uncle Frank were all at work, don’t know where me Ninny was, but mostly I wanted R-Kate, I was ballooned up for her with an impatient outburst that had built up as I had walked. It was my demand for life! Now the anger, was escaping like it was a puncture and I was going down to normal as I sat and pondered where my sister could be. Her room was littered with records and the player-arm bobbed up and down each time the zip line crossed the needle causing it to bob-up with a scratch sound. I stared at it going round and round. ‘Where is she?’ I wondered as it spun time after time. ‘Where?’
Ninny came shuffling in catching me in their room just as I had turned the player off. ‘Thank God, needed a bloody rest did that contraption, she’s worn it to death. Where is she?’ ‘Dun-no’ I shrugged with me little shoulders raisin almost to me big ears. ‘Just come in myself. Where you been Nin?’ ‘Benediction… it’s Wednesday son.’ ‘Oh yeh – forgot.’ Says I then reels to leave, just as Ninny decides to also. We bump. ‘Sorry Nin!’ ‘It’s okay son.’ She tells me then moves off with. ‘Haven’t done the rooms yet, I’ll go and do yours and your uncle Frank’s beds.’
With all my wild-wind completely gone my head hung like it had been held up by it, I slide my hands into my pockets and wander out. - - - but got no further than the gate before Nin’s scream caught me up and rammed itself into me ears. ‘MOTHER-OF-GOD! PEE--WEE!’…..
….. Blimey, what she do that for? She’ll be in hospital for a few days. The doctor said she’ll be alright though, and the baby too although –without loads of tests- they do not know if it’s been affected in any way or not. Bloody pill overdose, bloody stupid is what I say. What I don’t get is, why pick my bed to do it in ? ? ?
If I thought I was muddled before, now is a further step and if there’s a name for it I don’t know so I’ll just say double-muddled, cos that is what me head is like since R-Kate took that overdose. Now, more than ever I feel a part of that baby in her belly, like it is becoming mine and calling for me to guard it, but how can I… how??? I couldn’t stop what she just did, although the doctors did say had we not been there and got help so quick there would have been a more bad outcome.
The days pass slowly before Kate is released from hospital care. Peewee tries to talk to her but she merely dismisses him with: - Go-Away! Ninny takes to looking after Kate waiting on and doing all the fetch and carry stuff with Peewee secretly helping by running lots of errands.
Then, when mum and dad come up with a plan for them to become ten-pound poms and emigrate to Australia where they shall say the child is theirs and so take away the stigma of having a bastard in the family. It seems do-able and hope suddenly springs into the minds of all… except Kate, who adamantly refuses and states, categorically, that she is going to have the child adopted.
My ninny took to crying after that, almost every day her eyes would be red and there was never any smiley ‘good mornings’ then, one dinner time I heard a scream come from Kate and Ninny’s room, I ran in and Kate was trying to hold Ninny up from the floor where she had fallen because her heart had given out….
…. Busted to bits I suppose, the doctor said it was a huge heart attack. Poor Ninny! I loved her so much.
Things come to a head a week after the funeral on the day after the birth of the baby [a boy] when Kate states that she is really putting the child up for adoption… Peewee cannot stand that news especially now he has seen the little mite… and held him.
I was even more than double-muddled that day and determined to do what I had to do IF I had to do it. I just could not bear to lose R-New baby, not after all the fightin me and Ninny did for him, and I honestly feel that Ninny died for him. I do. So what right does R-Kate have to give him away, what right???........
………..“Hey son, what you doing up there? Come on down before you fall!”
I take it he’s talking to me, that copper down there. I’ll just pretend I can’t hear him. If they want to talk to me they’ll have to climb up there then shimmy along that pipe to get onto that little roof where I keep me trap. There’s me trap down there, an it’s full of micks, wonder if there’s any ringer racers in with them. That ledge is what I crawled along to get to this water tower. We use this tower for a swing-around, got the rope around me now, see! It’s tied in a noose but fits like a sling-seat, under me bum and up. I hold on like this – with two hands- and I can swing out, watch!
So he kicks out and glides away from the water tower over fifty feet up in the air and twenty feet out, almost sailing over the bobby on the ground. It is like he is on a fair-ride swing-chair that goes around and around and goes out and out further the faster it goes, the rope is tied more than thirty foot above that –to the top of the tower- but he is safe because the rope is an inch thick. The lads regularly use it for fun with the exhilaration of flying high above the factory rooftops.
“Hey!” Ha, that bobby is shouting, but I’ll not take any notice. I’ll land now against the wall and walk it around until I get back to the take-off ledge. I’ll wait until somebody can go and tell R-Kate.
Now he is drawing the crowds and the police are organizing an approach but finding it hard to go any further than where Peewee’s pigeon trap is. However, they have a better view from that point and can see his set up.
‘What you playing at you little scoundrel?’ ‘Not playing’ I tell him as I push out with my skinny little legs sending me out above him before gravity lands me back to the tower. “I’m really serious mister, I want R-baby to stay in our family and to go with us to Australia.’ His reply of ‘You what?’ Tells me to shout louder and a bit slower, and not to swing out while I’m shoutin. So I do all that till he repeats it back then I know he has heard me.
Somebody else heard also, someone who knew peewee, they felt it prudent to hurry off to tell his family.
They called me for all kinds of names, them busies [police] did; tried to scare me into coming down, but I just smiled at them. One even managed to get onto the ladder which is studded-all the way up- to the outside of the water tower but he was still ten feet from my position, I could see that he was more than uneasy as his knuckles were white due to his grip on those metal rungs. I managed to tell him the whole story before adding the fact that I was prepared to die if R-Kate didn’t agree to keep the baby in our family. ‘Now you’re being silly son.’ ‘Am I mister, watch!’ Says I then took out my lovely pen-knife telling him that I had bought it with my own, saved-up money. I held the knife to the rope on which I was dangling then, in plain sight of that perched policeman, slowly cut through one strand until it sprang out into two pieces. ‘See!’ I said. ‘I mean it!’ I could see he was gobsmacked; shitting himself because of the height and gobsmacked. Then I gave a massive kick-off and went swinging out into the air, high above the onlookers whose heads I could see moving back as they craned their necks in order to follow the path of my swing, but only that bobby knew I had cut one strand of the rope. By the time I landed back into the wall of that tower that policeman was climbing down. ‘I want my sister!’ I called after him as he went. ‘I want my sister!’
Funny, I didn’t feel scared then; but if that rope would have scuffed a strand into snapping while we were playing on it I would have poo-d myself, but – I kick once more and fly out above the gathered crowd, above the white faces and black hats and coats and mops of hair all with eyes staring up at me. I didn’t care the rope was cut, I just did not care!
His mother, Ann, had been told of the situation as the police car sped down to the silo. Kate was next to her bursting with tears as she heard of the demand. But when they arrived and were told by the policeman who saw it, of the rope being cut by one strand it stabbed them both in the heart with Ann grasping her daughter in pure desperation and saying:-He means it! He’s stubborn like you! You promise him anything, Anything! But you get him down to me… I’ve lost my mother, and half of you, but I do not want to lose that boy! If you have anything left in you, that we have put in there, go up to him and do the right thing!”
“I will, I will!” She replies as she sobs, the firemen take her arm in order to place her on the tip of the ladder that is going to be raised to Peewee’s height so she may speak with him. Once safely harnessed and with an officer there to securely secure her… the ladder raises them both up.
I watched as that ladder rose up to me with R-Kate like the prow of one of the canal barges sticking forward held tight by the fireman behind her, then her face came a bit clearer and I could see she was busting out with tears. ‘Whose got the baby?’ I ask, seemed right as he was the reason of this all. ‘Logger’s mum, Aunty May! Come on down Peewee please. Me Ma is bursting her heart down there, it’s not right.’ - ‘Not right!’ I shout. ‘What’s more not right than what you’re doin R-Kate, it’s killed me Ninny and it’s killing me Ma, so I’m gonna kill myself it you don’t change your mind and say you’ll let us keep him. Look!’ I take out my knife and drag the blade across the rope holding me, it twangs open more leaving a big gap. A visible strain is taken up by the single strand now holding me as Kate screams her horror the likes of which I have only heard off my mate’s mother when she was told of his sudden and horrible death from falling.
“Son!” The firebobby holding her shouts loud just after R-Kate’s scream. “She agrees Son, don’t do anymore, throw that knife away, throw it away!”
‘Do you R-Kate, do you?’ I yell. -‘Yes!!! Yes, yes, yes! God yes Peewee! yes!’ She yells back loud and clear, then trails off with:- ‘Just get to a safe place now, right now…please, I love you R-Peewee!
And so I did, then after the police were finished with their chiding at the police station I was let home but the bastards had took me knife, wrong that, I had bought that knife with me savings.
Really miss me Ninny you know, hit me a lot when I got home; her touching my head and speaking softly, making toast and doin the baking, but I felt I had done her proud because R-Kate said she would keep the baby… and we could all go to Australia. Me Ma, bloody-ell, thought she was going to smother me to death when she hugged me into her chest, nowhere to breath in there when they squeeze the life outa yer.
Funny you know, Me Da just smiled, patted me head then shot off with me uncle Frank to go the pub for a drink. I was able to hold the baby who looked up at me with them lovely big, sparkly dark-brown eyes and I swear he smiled. I tussled his black curls and said: - ‘Hi-ya Sconhead I said. ‘We’re all goin to Australia.
End of chapter
Friday, July 12th 1953, I broke up from school and was mad-excited, not because it was the start of the summer holidays; A fact that usually meant many weeks out on the farms picking peas, beans and potatoes. Earning mullash [money] and plenty of it along with having loads and lots of fun times. However my bubbly-feeling was due to the fact that we were leaving on the following Monday, for Australia.
Austalia, bloody-ell, at last it was going to come true and now we had little Sconhead [my name for him, but he was Christened ‘Peter’] Everyone accepted the fact that I called him Sconhead some even didso themselves because it appeared to make him smile when you said it. R-Kate hadn’t really accepted it all, but had gone along with it now due to not wanting me to go daft again, which –to me- showed that she did love me even though she had seemed to reject me after the baby had been born on 9th of October 1952 almost exactly a month to the day that Ninny got buried. However, that pain had gone now and we were all pals, which made me very happy, especially for me Ma. Me poor Dad, Christ, he didn’t show it but I knew he was unhappy because me Ma’s brother –uncle Frank- had passed-up going with us, but he was me Da’s best buddy, drinking buddy and football buddy… where would he get such a buddy in Australia… and where would I get such a lovely uncle?
I felt it was my fault really, all this, so I would have to try really hard to fill the gaps that everyone felt due to us going to Australia; I’d have to be me Ninny for me mam, a good pal to R-Kate and, somehow fill me uncle Franks place with me Da, although I couldn’t go drinking with him… till I got older.
There were tears galore on the quayside that day. Frank almost changed his mind there and then but backed off and waved with tears streaming as they all - Dad included- streamed their tears back to Frank. The river Mersey must have raised an inch as those scuppers drained that fall.
It didn’t take me long to be dry-eyed and searching the boat for where and where not I could go as the most unfamiliar sight of a very familiar landscape –the docks- passed us by, the cranes seemed to be lined up and waving. I remember lifting my hand and waved back to it all and that lovely life I had lived there. But most I was saying goodbye to my wonderful friends who had made my life a happy one just by being my pals.
Now I had Sconhead, to me he was my all and my family were the rest of my World.
I didn’t get sea-sick but R-Kate did as we crossed the Bay of Biscay with it’s roaring winds. I was more amazed than anything as the big ship lifted out of the water then back into it like it was no more than a piece of wood just floating and being tossed around. I was very surprised though when R-kate took to the deck during that rough weather, with R-Sconhead hardly even wrapped stopping only to look at the notice board as she went.
I followed with the intention of being her help as the ship rolled, but a couple of posters caught my eye, one saying something about a white only policy –whatever that meant- and the other a poster saying careful! –careful about what?’ So I stopped, just to read it. It had a picture of someone falling over board and said:- Do not get too close to the rails in bad weather! Suddenly my alarms rang and I ran out and over to where R-Kate was standing with R-Sconhead in her arm as she held on to the wooden rail with the other hand. I ducked under her arm and stood strong with my back against the metal barrier staring at her, although she looked a bit distant I knew she knew why I was there, and she knew I knew why she was. I reached out with my both hands towards her holding. The ship must have gone up and down quite a few times before she bowed to my begging hands and lowered Sconhead into them. Then with one hand holding Sconhead real tight I grabbed at R-Kate’s arm and pulled, as if to say: -you’re coming too… R-kid!
For the rest of the trip I kept Sconhead with me, changing him, washing him and sleeping with him out on the deck and under the stars each night. I had never seen the sky so clear, so bright, so full; it was like a new World, definitely not the one I had been under at home, it just couldn’t be, it was too full and too alive with movement and bright twinkles. It was so lovely I just could not wait for the night to come again. Every single night I would lay there with R-Sconhead and look up with him, pointing out the various streaks as they sped fast across the sky, like they was dodging the stars. Blimey I wished my mates to be there and see it, I just know they would have all loved it, especially R-Logger, I just know he would; we could say they wuz R-ringed racers, racing and winning for us. I missed him not coming to say goodbye but he did call around the night before we went and almost had me crying when he said he would miss me.
Funny, y’know. R-Sconhead began sleeping most the days for all day towards the end of our trip but he was wide awake during the night; laying on his back and staring up at the stars. I would fall asleep but wake now and then and check him out as he lay next to me, he would move his eyes as if to acknowledge me checking him then get back to staring… one time there was a lot of movement like shooting stars, lots of them, lots and lots. His hand reached over to me causing mine to grasp it gently but he returned the join with a grip that surprised me; it was much stronger than I had ever felt him do, much stronger than any baby had ever gripped my hand before! I looked at his intense stare and tried to follow it but all I saw was a mass of twinkles, and those shooting stars like they were racing. I smiled as I visualized my friend and me all racing up there on our steering carts, which we made from old prams, prams that we sometimes stole from the wash-house. I smiled then turned my head to see R-Sconhead smiling also, Then, for some reason he burst out crying like he had been stuck by his nappy pin, his cry was loud and hard. I tried hard to comfort him but he got me scared so I picked him up and ran with him to Kate’s cabin, but she wasn’t there, so I ran to my Mum’s cabin where she took charge and soon had him simmering with sobs.
Then I went to find and tell R-Kate….
The ship turned around reversing it’s course for over and hour with 2 look-outs posted on the foc’sle 2 each along port and starboard side and every spare man on the bridge as lookouts, all looking and searching for R-Kate due to a ‘goodbye’ note on her bunk.
All they found was her shawl…. Then called off the search!
Me Ma seemed to go into shock so the doctor sedated her while me Da went with the officer of the ship to give all the details.
I tried to say a prayer but ended up shouting up at him instead, well in that general direction anyway. I called him all the names one should not call anyone, especially HIM!
I then lay down next to R-Sconhead and stared at him staring at the stars, tears were running down his cheeks but he was not making a sound, Silent tears, just running out of his pools of lovely dark eyes as they looked up at the heavens… ‘You know, dontcha R-little Sconhead, you know.’ I whispered. He turned his head and looked at me. Then I realized as he stared, his eyes into mine, more or less just as Ninny had done, the same depth, similar pools mixing. I felt it, then said:- ‘You knew!’ I whispered as I thought of those earlier moments when he had screamed out like he had a pin up his jacksy. I reached out and held his tiny hand in mine, and squeezed. ‘You blinkinwell knew R-Sconhead, you blinkinwell knew!’ I said then picked him up and held him close but not too close so as to crush him. For some reason words of that nursery rhyme came into my head…. Five green bottles, then there were only four!
By the time we walked off the boat at Freemantle I was crisped to a lovely brown, almost the same color as Sconhead was. There was a beautiful sight waiting for us as we came out of the demarcation shed… Uncle Frank. He had changed his mind and flown over, paid for out of his savings, of which he had plenty because he was a hard working saver and owned his own business. Ha, I immediately thought of that nursery rhyme and told myself ‘Five again…. Up yours!’ I said to whoever it was in charge of getting rid of green bottles. Ha, don’t even know who I was saying it to, but seeing that happiness light up me Mum and Dad’s faces just made me feel like it was a bloody big Christmas and uncle Frank was the beardless father of it all.
Even Sconhead was smiling.
As if to get us prepared to face hardship, but to give us a yardstick with which to thank our lucky stars with, uncle Frank let us stay in one of those communal huts the government had set up for us poms in Freo’ – it was a far cry from what was promised. He took me Da with him somewhere while Ma, me and R-Sconehead were left to hang around for a few days. Shit! Not swearin, that is what it smelt like in those long huts what with all the fartin goin on, spittin like the floor was a bucket and unholy sights with arses showin, noses getting picked faster than dippin bread in soup. It was YEUK! Me Ma was shocked, but not having been lured by the promises of lush advertisements back home she couldn’t really join in by cursin the broken promises.
Ten pound poms we were and the government went by what me Ninny and Ma always said: - You get what you pay for!
I still snook outside at night for R-Sconhead to lay under the stars, but I found another enemy; a native whom I had never really heard of never mind met. Mossies [mosquitos], bloody ell they bit, flyin bloody teeth they should call them. Blood-suckin robbers, wow, I would sooner walk through the Seeky every night than put up with them so I went out the next day and robbed a mossy-net from the priests’ house. I weren’t no friend of God’s now, so why should I be okay with them clergy fellas.
Me Ma came to me as I stashed the net, I thought she was gonna wallop me but whatever I’d done was far from her mind as she told me to gather up all of our clothes and bags. ‘Scabies!’ She said, someone has got scabies! She was angry. We carried our stuff off then piled it all on a two foot square piece of grass on the corner of the main road just by the silver stoned prison then she left me with R-Sconhead to mind everything until she got back.
I watched in awe at the prisoners being marched around and spoken to like dogs by the big black-coated police type fellas. One uniform stopped by me “He a blackie?” He asks as I played with Sconhead I didn’t like the attitude of this man as I looked up at his bulk. I think he was a policeman, he was pointing at R-Sconhead. “Is he?” He demanded. I pulled R-Sconhead into me tight. ‘NO!’ I snapped back. ‘He’s me little brother.’ My face showed angry at this fella. ‘We only got off the boat yesterday – from Liverpool, England.’
“Not with him you never, white immigrants only here mate!” He told as he leaned down to move R-Sconheads head around to get a better look. “White only, an he’s got black in him!... Give him here!” He reached out to take R-Sconhead but I flinched back holding him tight as can be. ‘Can’t, No!’ I shouted. But as his big fingers dug into my shoulder Mam kicked him up the butt. “Who the ?!...”
“ME!” Me Ma said angrily. “Me and if you touch either of my kids again I’ll kick you so hard you’ll have to move your adams-apple over for ball room.
Ma had an official with her from the town hall, he immediately took charge by first checking our passports and the fact that R-Sconhead was British then dismissed the policeman sharply. Next he moved us to a new built hut near the end of town that had a big grass patch next to it, but before he went he did spell out the fact that R-Sconhead did look like he had color in him and there was a white only immigration policy for that reason.
I stayed close to Ma after that, and each time any policeman came by I hid R-Sconhead away. Da and uncle Frank returned within a week and loaded us up into an old pick up truck. Me and Sconehead rode in the back, a rigged sheet protected us from the sun as we sped for miles and miles and miles along the dusty red road for what seemed like hours passing all funny names like ‘Yanchep’ and ‘Two Rocks’. Finally, we arrived at a turning for Guilderton. Then, after another half hour drive, we trundled into it…. A beautiful, breathtaking view of the blue ocean with a river running into it, Moore River it said on the post, Moore River I thought, ‘You are beautiful!’ Compared to back home it was a shed –our new house- could even have been our Logger’s loft… a lot bigger admitted, but it could have been… Ha, if our Loggers yard was bigger, it would have been.
There were only a few dozen houses close by, a school, shop and church. I soon palled up with a few kids, Sam, Todd, Laura and Amy, there were others but us lot hit it off goodstyle and never went anywhere without R-Sconhead. It was like we were all family. Me uncle Frank set up a little engineering firm what dealt with marine and farm accessories so we was all good.
One day soon after arriving, we were playing footie on the grassy part of the beach –me and the gang- R-Sconhead was laying on the grass asleep as usual because we still slept out under the stars, which he would stare at all night, just like he did on the boat. Suddenly, like he just appeared, an old, painted, Abbo was standing holding R-Sconhead on one arm, but holding himself steady with his spear into the ground with the other.
We walked over to them cautiously. R-Sconhead was guggling happily with the man as they looked into each others eyes. “His mother is dead.” The old man said in his pigeon English. “And –I think- his father has gone –long time.” He added just as R-Sconhead reached out towards me and called his first word, with his fingers grasping: - ‘Mine!’ He called, then smiled. ‘Mine!’ He said again. - “I say wrong.” The old man then said. “His father is not long gone. His father is here! Really here!” - ‘Mine!’ R-Sconhead called again then leaned towards me helped by the old man’s sway. I took R-Sconhead who looked back at the old man and smiled before saying once more:- ‘Mine!’
So mine I became, only changing the i for a y to make it look right on paper. Myne. Me mates all thought it was a solid christening.
-That’s how, people… I became Myne. - -
The old Abbo became a regular visitor to us through the years, especially at night when R-Sconhead is looking up at the stars. One evening he was panting like he had hurried, said he would have to consult with R-Sconhead about stuff. When I asked him what kind of stuff he leaned towards me and whispered, ‘He can do something little few can Myne, he can read the stars… just like his father… my son!’
When I told my family about what the old man had said, uncle Frank took me to one side and gave me a note. He had found it the night R-Kate had taken those pils in my bed.
[R-Pee’ Sorry, but the baby’s father is a native Australian, and you know how color is frowned on here. Just can’t face to abort now that I’ve thought about it. Love you always, really do!:- Your Kate X]