Academic journal article Hecate

Looking after Cecily

Academic journal article Hecate

Looking after Cecily

Article excerpt

We've been on the road for days and now I'm back where I started. Under these massive Moreton Bay figs, the white sky rushing behind sheltering leaves. I'm digging at my heels with a stick, picking out smashed fruit and leaf-litter, just like the old days. It's a kind of Eden. I remember when I first came out here - Adam, the first boy.

It's different now, more like a park than a bin, with people throwing sticks for dogs and picnickers settling down within sight of the wards. I can smell the nearby river, where rowers skim in uniform strokes. The grounds are unkempt. Everything's taller and more over-grown. They must've finally got rid of him, old Gurgller. The wards have shrunk to a few buildings, and the mad sit outside in faded pajamas, playing chess at plastic tables, and a woman in a nightie strikes off into the plantains, now and then letting out a peacock screech.

The creek is still here, though it's drier now, only a trickle, and fat tadpoles wriggle in the ponds where huge goldfish once poked their snouts at the surface and gobbled at a shower of crumbs. Elephant ears stampede along the creek's edge, amongst a riot of ornamental ginger and out-of-control day lilies. Gurgller - if you are dead, your ghost must be snapping ineffectual pruning shears.

My favourite park-bench is still here, scabby and rotting under the stand of bamboo, and I sit and rest at last, my long legs splayed, the bamboo knocking gently like Japanese music. I unwrap the chocolate bar that was almost welded to my shirt pocket, and bite into it.

I'm hungry, tired, in need of peace, after being in the car with that lot. Three days driving straight. The car, the Holden, is up on the street, illegally parked, hot and ticking, headlights plastered with smashed grasshoppers. Long brown feathers stick out of the radiator vents, from when Cecily couldn't stop in time for the coucal that dashed across the road in front of her. Coucals are silly birds; they wait at the roadside and run out when they see you coming. Still, I don't like to see them hit - it's bad luck somehow.

When she hit it we all shrieked at her. She slammed on the brake, got out and went round and stared at the front of the car for awhile. She told us it was nothing - but we knew! Cecily should know - she should not, must not lie to us.

There were always too many lies. When I first came out it was here, the day after they left me - those people who were my parents. Boys are tough and independent, and don't cry. Boys get on with things, so when Cecily found out they weren't coming back, I took over for a while.

Oh yes, I had parents, and brothers and sisters, a whole family. It was my father who could not put up with me. My mother wept and protested, but she was under his thumb. In those days they did things like that to children - left them in a looney-bin just because they had epilepsy.

They wouldn't do something like that to a child these days - or would they ? Cecily thought they went to the United States. That's why they didn't visit. They had to leave, she said, the police were after them, because my father had stolen some money from the bank where he worked, and if he were caught the whole family would be broken up. That's what Cecily told everyone.

Boys are useful when there are things to do, like carry the wood, or wash the car, or fix things. I'm itching right now to go up to the car and open the hood and check everything, scrape the insects off the windscreen, even though I'm exhausted. Cecily always wondered how things like that got done. The doctors told her, but she never truly believed until the other day, the day before we left, when Dr Steve showed her the video.

It was the video of Cecily changing. Taken a year ago at his clinic. Dr Steve had decided that Cecily was ready. She watched and saw all of us. She saw me, Adam, the first boy. She saw little Sarah, and baby Amber, who holds all the memories. …

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