Saturday, January 2, 2010

More Stolen Yarns

More stories from fireside folk.

Donna Toa, (no fire) Otago University student flats:

My Dad was a beautiful man. Scandinavian. He looked like Paul Newman. He taught us to be strong girls. Once we were sitting on the verandah, when we lived at Port Chalmers, and a woman walked by, legs up to here, tiny, tiny skirt and high heels and stockings.

Thinking back, she was a prostitute, you know. And my Dad, sipping his cup of tea, laughed away to himself, just laughed and laughed. You know, so many men would be whistling or ogling that woman, but he just laughed. It was that moment, one of those moments, as I remember him, how he related to me and us as girls and women. 'Cos he could see the humour in her situation, struggling up the hill in her high heels.

Dayshift Barmaid, Fireplace, The Royal George, Albany:

We had a bloke, he was here everyday. His wife was pregnant and so was I (though I wasn't showing, so nobody minded too much). I was six months gone and it was my first child. When his wife went into labour and had the baby, this man spent the whole time in the bar. He went on a week long bender at the pub and only left to get a feed and have a shower.
I was so pissed about this!! He should've been with his wife (even though he was in no condition to visit the hospital, unless it was for a liver transplant).
Finally after days and days of him basically living in the bar, my boss, the publican (his name was Priest, truly. And everyone told him their secrets) had a word with him, a quiet sit-down near the fire.
Here was me, pregnant, thinking this guy was an asshole, that he was soaking up all the congratulatory drinks. He even had a black eye, from some bullshit fight. That day he told Priest that their last child had been stillborn and he thought it was his fault because of some kind of genetic weird shit. He was too scared to go near the hospital or his wife, in case the same thing was happening all over again.

Donna Toa, (no fire) Otago University Flats:

I knew the worth of money when I should have been too young to know. I was having sex for bangles. Since I was seventeen, I was under the thumb. Four babies. My Dad saw me one day, ready to drop Jani, still breastfeeding the boy. "You're getting cannibalised!" He said.

Four babies and one husband who screwed me into the ground with violence. It's like I've got the same thing as those Vietnam vets - the amount of times I thought I was gonna die. I've had a shotgun in my mouth, been beaten and then kicked in the head when I was down on the ground.

You don't just get better when it ends. You can't just turn a switch and be okay from that day onwards. All of a sudden, there is freedom, from him and his control, and it's just too much. It's almost as bad as the violence. I didn't know how to deal with the freedom. There were too many choices. I made a lot of wrong ones. I lost my way for years. And he kept the kids because I wasn't strong enough to stand up to him. So my life was even looser - nothing to tie me down.

Once I was in a bar - I used to drink with some of the Mongrel Mob - and this young blood started trying to chat me up. I must have been about forty then, four kids. He was just growing some bum fuzz on his face, he was a boy, and he kept coming up with all these raspberry sweet lines. I laughed at him, just laughed and laughed, like my Dad did, at that woman walking up the hill in her heels. I thought it was great! And pretty funny, and then this young blood punched me, broke my nose, made a real mess of my face.

Toa Sister, Fireplace:

A short little man used to run the market arcade where I worked. His family were all religious, of some sort. He built a lovely little bric-a-brac shop for his wife, in secret, and presented her with this shop on the opening day. I don't know whether she had any say in her new job. He seemed to think that's what she'd always wanted and I never heard anything else.
She dressed the same as the rest: long skirts, demure shirts, very well behaved. The rest of us tenants were ferals, the normal kind of people you see running market stalls.

Every day, the short, little man and his demure, pretty wife ate lunch at the Mexican stall, run by an Iranian family - a feisty Iranian mother and her son and daughter. The son claimed to have fought in Beirut and could quote Robert Burns, whilst standing on a laminex table, full of Fruity Lexia, I saw it. Small, dark man. The quiet, beautiful daughter was very dark, lithe limbs, springy, black hair.

When the whole thing fell apart, when the centre finally did not hold, when the stall holders mutinied against the religious callings of the managers and the old man had a nervous breakdown, the short little man told me of his affair with the beautiful Iranian daughter.

"She showed me a new life. I had a new blood surge into me. I was besotted, entranced. We went skinny-dipping. I've never done that before. I tried to stop seeing her, but I just couldn't. It was like I was addicted and she was the opiate. Her mother knew, of course. Her mother knew all sorts of things ...
Do you believe in magic? Like Black Magic?" Here, the devout handclapper stares at me across the table, his eyes pleading with me to absolve him. "I think that family did something to me."

"I don't know anything about that stuff," I told my former, quite destroyed boss, "perhaps if you believe in it, then it works."

He told me then, that every evening, how he would drive out of the markets and swear he'd go home to his wife and two young sons. But then he'd look up to the mountain that overshadowed the town, to her house. The house glowed with light, it shone like a beacon and he just drove towards it. Out of all the houses that collar that mountain, that house just glowed and glowed. He'd be at the house and in her bed, before he even knew what he was doing. "Her mother did it. I know she did. She knows all about that stuff."

The next thing ... well you know what happened. All came crashing down and the Iranian family shot through overnight. Rent on the shop not paid and they were long gone. Just like that. The good little wife,when she found out, she was gone too and the two sons, all in one day.

That afternoon and the next day, and for the rest of the week, after he told me all that stuff, when I looked up to that house at the end of the day - it did not glow. It stood like all the rest of the other houses. I couldn't even see it any more. I look up there now and I don't even know where it is.

That house had huge panes of glass. When I think about it, when his affair with the Iranian girl kicked in, the sun was directly opposite that house, at five-thirty, when he drove out of work. A few weeks later, the sun had moved on. Pity, he didn't.


  1. Wow!! Exellent. Too dizzy with stories to comment individually. Fiction is great, but I reckon there is just so much power in telling it straight sometimes.

  2. Potent stuff Ms Toa. Stories that haunt.

    Beautiful writing.

  3. Thankyou, Michelle and Sontag. Potent, but perhaps not potential. For a few days now, I've been wrestling with the whole idea of writing other people's stories and conclude that perhaps it isn't such a good idea ...