mop of wiry blonde hair from his eyes. He was a good mate, Ryan.
They’d known each other forever it seemed. When they were little
Ryan used to pull Jake through the water in a yellow plastic tugboat
– even when they were little he had always been taller and broader
‘I’ll see you down there, I just gotta do something first.’ He hadn’t
been down to the jetty since the day his dad had pulled Jimmy’s
coughing body from the water. He looked around the emptying
school yard in an attempt to catch a glimpse of Emily. The day that
Emily Longwood would wink at me... he wondered. What a joke. On
the hill a car horned him onto the footpath. He spotted a smooth
pebble and knocked it back and forth between his sneakers. Their
house looked as if it was on its deathbed: the wooden planks bulged
in certain places, the corrugated iron drooped precariously to one
side, a large crack the shape of a fountain glistened in what was left
of the front window. An annoying abundance of spiky weeds had
conquered the garden and snuck into the pads of your feet if you
‘What are you doing home so early?’ His dad was sitting on the
porch. What did he mean? He did not look up from the magazine he
was holding – it was emblazoned with a photograph of a silver fish
flitting in the air, the black mesh of a net lurking in the background.
What was behind his father’s words? The eye of the fish glowed
white. Was he imagining it? No... there was something. Something
there suppressed deep down by layers of control.
‘Ryan had detention,’ Jake muttered under his breath before
sliding through the front door. His father had not spoken to him
that whole day. He had looked at him for one fleeting moment when
he clambered up onto the jetty, brushing off Jake’s open hand.
Disappointment? No, it was worse than that. It was contempt.
It was not the first time Jake had looked into his father’s eyes and
felt so alone. He had been a kid, fiddling with his thumbs while his
father paced outside his bedroom, speaking in a low and urgent voice
on the phone. That night Jake’s mother had not come home. His
mother. He could hardly remember her now. Just the sweet lullaby
she used to sing – not to him – when she would scrub away at a
blackened pan. What was it again?
Water and roses
droplets and petals...
He had seen her smile in old photographs – his parents’ wedding
photo was his favourite – but from Jake’s birth it was as if alongside