But Home Is
Isobelle Carmody Award
for Creative Writing
The day he turns six, his big sister decides to mark their heights on
the doorframe leading into kitchen.
She steals a big fat permanent marker from their father’s study
and drags over a chair from the dining table. It’s a heavy wooden
chair, and the legs scrape and scratch, decorating the floor with four
identical scratch markings. While she clambers onto the chair, he
stares out the window, at the trees and the fields and the grass. He
wishes he were outside, roaming free, but it’s been raining for two
days straight. The heavens have opened up and let loose a torrential
downpour of epic proportions, thick grey clouds smothering the
landscape in their hungry grasp. The rain falls heavily, pounding out
a steady rhythm of pitter patter, ear splitting and all consuming.
‘Chin up, stand straight – no, stop standing on your tippy toes,’
his sister says, and his attention snaps back inside to the warmth and
safety of their home.
‘There, done. Now we’ll be able to see how much you’ve grown,’
she tells him, smiles and ruffles his hair.
‘What about you?’ He asks, grinning back.
‘I don’t know about that, pipsqueak, do you think you can reach?’
‘I know that!’ He squeals, ‘but what if I stand on some books or
‘Fine, go ahead’
He races up the stairs, the steps creak and groan underneath him
and he bursts into his room. In the gloom his glow-in-the-dark
dinosaur stickers light up the ceiling, like stars on a canvas of black
void. He pulls out a couple of heavy books fromhis bookcase. They’re
the encyclopaedia set that he got last Christmas but never actually
looked at. The spines are thick and strong and dig into his hands.
With a grunt he lifts them into the air.
Holding a bundle of books tightly in his arms he races back down
the stairs and carefully arranges them into a tower.
‘Be careful,’ his sister warns, handing him the marker. It’s a bit too
big for his little hands, and when he pulls off the cap the weird smell
tickles his nose. He drags the tip of the marker against the rough
grains of the wooden door frame.
Later that night he lies in his bed, squeezes his eyes shut and tries to
pretend that he can’t hear his parents arguing downstairs. His father