It’s Saturday morning, 9am. Dad gets me out of bed.
“Got a load for the tip. Get your boots on.”

I pull on an old shirt, jeans, walk into the kitchen. Mum looks at me: she knows how I feel. Not excited.

“Here,” she says, handing me a piece of toast with honey, and my socks.

I fold the toast in half and then in half again. It fits in my mouth and leaves my hands free so that I can put my socks on, but crumbs are everywhere. “Thanks,” I say. She gets the broom.

Dad brings the truck around. “Dreamer. Get in.”

I pull myself into the cab, cracking my head on the top.


Dad grimaces. He’s suffered snake bite, a dislocated shoulder, but he’s never said ‘ow’. Before I was born he didn’t think I’d be the type to, either. His father survived Gallipoli, but he doesn’t think I’ll survive eighth grade.

At the tip, Dad gets out, goes round to the back, and pulls off the tarp. I’m still sitting in the cab when he knocks on the window.

“Here, princess,” he says, opening the door and handing me a shovel. He goes back round to the tray and climbs up, starts shovelling. He pretends not to see me when I get stuck halfway doing the same, and have to lie, my torso lying on the tray, as I wriggle my legs up and around to the side. I end up with a face full of garbage.

We shovel for two minutes. I stop. Dad doesn’t.

“Something’s wrong,” I say.

“Yeah,” he says. “You’re not helping.”

“It’s different,” I say, still not picking up the shovel. He grunts.

I survey the landfill … there’s three or four utes emptying the garbage with dad and me. What is it? The people, the trucks, look the same. Everything smells. I think about getting home and taking a shower.

Finally, it’s finished, and we can stop. I wipe away sweat with the back of my hand. Everything’s covered in a fine layer of grime. I think about the washing I’ll have to do later; I wonder if he ever thinks like that.

He lights up a cigarette, hands it to me for a puff. I take a deep breath, inhale, but I splutter and cough and it’s worse than if I refused in the first place.

Silence, for a few minutes. He throws the butt on the ground, puts it out with the help of his boot. Goes back around to the driver’s side door. Realises I’m not following.

“I’ve figured out what it is,” I say.

“Okay, dreamer,” he says. “Tell me what it is.”

“There’s no seagulls,” I say, and then the earth cracks open and I realise it’s more than just the seagulls.

I’m sure he wouldn’t call me dreamer, anymore, if the earth hadn’t swallowed him whole.



Joined January 2008

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