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A story by DAVID BENN

With both hands on the wheel of my Mazda Hatch, I watched a steady stream of black-and-red-uniformed pupils alight from steaming vehicles and saunter along the concrete footpath towards the school gates, where a group was already waiting for the bus that would take them to school camp.

My son, Harrison, readying himself to get out of the car and join them, leant over and kissed me on the cheek.

‘See you in a couple of weeks,’ he said.

‘It’s nice and warm here in the car. I can drop you at the gate.’ I tried not to raise my voice, so it would sound like a statement. Not a plea.

‘No, it’s okay. I want to see my friends before school.’ He turned and opened the door and cold dry air washed through the vehicle.

As I pulled on the hand brake and looked in the rear vison mirror, I saw the passenger door of the car behind us ease open.

‘I’ll get your bag out of the boot,’ I said.

Before Harrison had the chance to tell me not to worry, I’d swung open the door and hopped out.

He stared at me over the roof for a moment then shot a glance around him. ‘Can you hurry up?’

With a sigh, he dug into his pocket for his phone as I opened the hatch, which creaked and squealed as it lifted .

I was careful not to brush against the gleaming white paint of the car behind us. Its silver Mercedes logo sparkled on the front of the bonnet. A tall girl with a long blonde ponytail slid out of the passenger seat and heaved a black backpack over her shoulder. Her porcelain skin and blue eyes shone like her parent’s car, as she smiled at the impassive boy beside me.

'Good morning, Harrison. How are you?’

Saying nothing, Harrison lowered his head and turned his back. I stuck a hard surreptitious finger into his side and his head snapped up.

‘Oh yeah. I’m good thanks.’

The young girl waved her fingers and skipped off. With her head held high and ponytail swinging in the sun, she joined the slow flow of slouched ambling teenagers on the footpath. Harrison squared his shoulders, lowered his voice and snarled, ‘Why’d you go and do that for?’

My voice was controlled but my shoulders strained as I lifted his school bag out of the boot and looked him in the eye.

‘When a pretty girl says good morning to you it’s polite to wish her a good morning in return.’

He kept my gaze, stepped forward and took the straps of his bag.

'And when was the last time a pretty girl said good morning to you?’

Reaching up with one arm, I slammed down the hatch and leant over him.

‘That would have been your mother.’

Not taking a step back, Harrison narrowed his eyes.

'And how did that work out for you? Maybe if you’d kept your mouth shut you wouldn’t be divorced, broke and driving this embarrassing car.’

I leant down until our noses were almost touching.

'That might be the case. But if I’d said nothing, you wouldn’t exist, so maybe you should be grateful I said good morning.’

Copyright: text David Benn; photos Wix.

SSOA posts are made possible through office accommodation assistance from the City of Sydney.


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