“Just how safe is your suburb?” The voiceover intoned dramatically, booming around the polished floorboards and crisp white walls of the Wilson house. “Tune into Today Tonight tomorrow at 6.30 for an exclusive report showing just how dangerous your neighbours are”.
Tony eased past the kiddie guard suction-cupped to the hallway walls and dumped his brief case next to the dining table.
“Hi babe,” he greeted his wife Sarah, tugging at the Italian silk noose around his neck.
“Hey hun”. Sarah leaned across the island bench to peck him on the lips.
“How’d you get that scratch on the new Lexus?”
“Yeah, there’s a huge mark down the left hand side. How long you had that – two weeks?”
“Oh, the mark”. Sarah prised apart the silver foil lips of the chicken stock. “That’s just a scuff mark. Someone at The Glen. It’ll come off”.
“Better bloody come off”, Tony grumbled, extracting a stubbie from their huge fridge. “Long day, I tell you”. Sarah snatched a credit card statement out of the fruit bowl and stuffed it discretely into her apron.
“Tell me about it”. She stepped deftly to avoid spilling a saucepan over their youngest. “Come on, out of the kitchen darling. Tea’ll be ready in a little while”.
“But I’m hungry now ”. Sam already had a Milky Way out of the pantry.
“Righto”, she acquiesced, bending to usher Sam out of the kitchen. “Go and play in the den”. He was already gone.
“Picked up those new clubs”. Tony arced his back and raised an elbow to massage his own shoulder.
“Uh, huh”. Sarah poured herself another glass of Riesling. The sound of hammering floated across their lawn.
“That bloody guy is out in his shed again. I don’t know what the hell he does out there. Do you reckon I should report him?”
“He’s a bloody weirdo. Always up to stuff. Visitors at all hours of the night as well”. Sarah paused to swallow.
“Mmm. Well, they say you should report anything suspicious these days”. Tony grabbed a handful of chips from the bowl abandoned by their 3 boys. The bolognese smelled good.
“I probably should. He was using his bloody sprinklers all summer as well. I’ll do it tomorrow”. He ran a pensive finger along the chipped edge of the crystal bowl they’d gotten for their wedding. ‘Nothing lasts these days’, he thought to himself.
“Did you see that article about the baby in America, the 14 month old who got the gun licence?” Sarah asked from amid steam clouds billowing from a colander full of noodles.
“Yeah, how was that? Only in America eh?” Tony grabbed the whole bowl and flopped into the leather lounge.
“Only in America”. Next door, a door slammed. A drill started whining.
“Saw they had another high school shooting”. Where was the bloody remote?
“Yeah? Sweetie, I said out of the kitchen. Mummy’s making tea. Go and play the Playstation until it’s ready”.
“The gun’s broken,” Tim bleated.
“I’m busy at the moment. Darling, can you help them with their gun?”
“OK sport, just give Dad a second”. Tony pulled Tim down onto his knee. Tim’s smile evaporated as his father turned the volume up.
“Dad needs to hear this before he can come and play”. Tim struggled off his dad’s knee and raced out into the den to join his brothers.
“You go in there, I’ll be in a minute”, Tony murmured as he leaned forward to hear the CommSec report. Rio had done it. Gone through the $100 mark. You little beauty! If only he’d gotten on board earlier.
“You know, I reckon we might be able to get that home theatre we were looking at…”
“Great hun,” Sarah half-enthused, thinking “We…?”
“…if the market keeps up the way it is”.
“Uh huh”. Another sip. Hammer. Distant machine gun chatter in the den. A suddenly loud salvo of hammering from next door skittled their conversation. Tony exhaled heavily in exasperation and rose from the couch.
“I wish that friggen towel head would keep it down,” he declared, gazing out the window. The spaghetti bolognese ‘phup-phupped’ gently on the island cook top. Squeals from the den.
“Hun, you know we’re not meant to say that these days,” Sarah chided him insincerely as she clattered plates onto the bench.
“Mmm”. Tony dropped his stubbie into the recycling bin and headed to the laundry to get a red for dinner.
“You happy with a Shiraz?”
“I’d be happier with a nanny”. Under her breath.
“Red’s good”. Sarah caught her reflection in the darkening back windows. Tired. She got the bottle opener ready. Tony reappeared, clutching the nape of a Bin 389.
“I picked up that Blu-Ray version of the Band of Brothers box set”.
“Good one”. Sarah had already shed the bottle’s foil casing. “We can watch that after dinner”.
“Yeah. Like you’d be awake after the credits”, Tony chortled, clinking the 2 glasses he was pulling down from the cupboard. More gunfire and screams from the den.
“Christ, sounds like they got that gun working alright”. Leaning into the hall, Tony shouted “Boys! What are you doing in there?”
Tim reappeared at the door to the living room. “_Grand Theft Auto 3_. We’re selling ice and pimping hos”. Falling over his words in excitement. “I whacked a nigger and I…”
Tony glugged 2 huge glasses half full each.
“Timmy, just keep it down will you? Your mother and I are tired. How long before that’s ready Sare?”
“Might catch the end of Backyard”. Tony flicked through the channels. “Bloody SBS, another friggin’ special on Iraq. I’m so sick of that bloody war, I tell you. They’re all bloody mad over there. What channel’s Backyard on?”
“I think it’s Nine”. Authoritative reportage from the news flash anchor and images of Monday’s shooting.
“Looks like they got that bikie that shot that lawyer in town. Jeez, that’s pretty close to home. I tell you, when you can’t even walk down Bourke Street on a Monday morning without being exposed to that sort of thing, times are changing”.
“I know. What sort of person does that?”
“Boys! Keep it down!” Tony yelled roughly over his shoulder. “Here we go babe. They’re doing a special on home theatres – what’s the chances of that! Close that door will you?”