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The Spike Victoria University College Review 1944

Our Life's Star

page 21

Our Life's Star

We Used to meet the Brown family summers on the beach. Little Otago in those days was a fat little boy with golden hair and big blue eyes.

He used to like to sit on the rocks and smell the sewer; other times he would take a little stone and go squash crabs out of sight of the bach, or maybe he would be up looking through the cracks of the ladies' dressing shed.

On hot summer afternoons he would beg his dad for a penny and would bribe his little cousin Nancy to play games. They would go away by themselves into the lupins, ignored by the other children. They always played races, little Otago was always jockey, and they always won.

On this afternoon the family was having a birthday party on the beach. Grandpa was asleep and little Otago bad covered him with sand several hours earlier. Father had finished the three bottles of beer and had become quite affectionate towards Mum, but she had been baking all day and felt more like a nice lay down with her shoes off and her stays undone. She was annoyed to see little Otago dawdling down towards her with an expression of infinite boredom on his face. Nancy was walking beside him and from time to time attempted to hold his hand, which he would snatch away with an angry squeak. 'What's the matter?' said mum, 'You're a nice one not enjoying yourself on your birthday!' 'I dunno,' said little Otago, and in his petulant eyes was all the ennui of those peaceful Edwardian days. His sailor suit was crumpled and his little boots were full of sand.

'I don't want to play with Nancy,' he said, 'its too hot,' and wandering across to the rocks he bent over a deep pool to see if he could find a crab. But he could see only his own face, which had a mottled and indistinct appearance in the ripples of the pool. Sadly he immersed one foot, feeling his boot slowly fill with water. Looking down at his leg which was flushed a dull red with the sun, he wanted to be deep down inside the pool. He picked up a shell and put it to his ear; the sea was sing ing sailor songs to him and the flapping of his collar seemed the wing-beats of a great white bird. Come out of that Otago!' shouted his mother; he came back slowly, his wet boot squelching in the sand. She made him take it off. He sat down and looked at the little clouds far out to sea; they seemed wistful and lonely just like himself.

He began to feel that it hadn't been a nice birthday, and remembered for the first time that afternoon the green wooden engine he had seen in Mr. Johnston's store and had prayed for each night before he went to sleep. It had not been among the gifts he had received that morning. Looking at his mother's back he felt a sudden disappointment as he realised that he could not depend on her or on God. Perhaps there wasn't even a Father Christmas. There wasn't anything he wanted to do, he didn't think there ever would be.

All the grown-ups had gone to sleep. Nancy was sitting on grandpa's stomach, with a brown dribble of caramel falling from her lower lip. The sun gleamed on one of the beer bottles; he felt a swift intuition of new, unspeakable joys. He picked up the bottle in both hands. Nancy looked at him enquiring, imbecilic. He hit her hard on the head with the bottle and she fell backwards over grandpa.