Tag Archives: Rosalie Sugrue

Free Sample Chapter – Greens and Greys by Rosalie Sugrue

Dark Encounters

Year two rolled on. Christchurch and College continued to fascinate and educate. Smug in senior superiority we hardened hostellers, swaggered around the first years oozing worldly wisdom, and tempting fate with blind dates, risqué adventures and dabbling in the occult.

To be precise, we organised a couple of dance dates, a set number of girls from our hostel and a boys’ hostel, and lucky-dipped for partners. Esther is still married to the guy she met on one of these dates 50 years ago.

* * *

Two late passes per week were the maximum allocation, an 11 o’clock, and a 1:30. 1:30 seemed pretty liberal but there was a catch, it couldn’t be taken on a Saturday. Being the Sabbath there was a 12:15 curfew. The hostel was locked at 10:30 each night by the ‘duty Deac.’ Then the poor Deac had to stay awake and open the door for those on late passes.

Talking was my downfall. 10:30 creeps quickly during a good discussion. If caught missing the deadline, late passes were suspended.

The three fire escapes were raised five feet from the ground. An ineffectual twist of barbed wire decorated each bottom rung. An apple-box hidden in the hedge provided the initial boost. Life was easier for the girls who lived downstairs, several windows gave easy access, but we upstairs dwellers couldn’t risk creaking up the stairs past Miss P’s room. I could rely on Esther to cover for me, as I did for her. I didn’t do it often. I was uneasy about breaking rules.

That year it was fashionable for boys to prove manhood by bathing in a girls’ hostel and souveniring the plug. Only one plug went missing from our hostel but our lives were spiced by the continuing hope of intercepting some intrepid, naked intruder. At that time only a séance held more fascination.

* * *

Chopsticks belts from the piano, a sure sign Miss P is out. The common room fills. A wireless is plugged in and turned up. Maureen and Vera stop murdering the piano and join the twisters. Bodies gyrate to the end of the hit parade then someone suggests a séance.

Pious Patricia wonders if it is right. “We shouldn’t dabble in witchcraft. You know, it could be evil,” she falters.

“Witchcraft be blowed! All the hostels are doing it,” says Maureen. “My mate Theresa told me the Rosary House girls are really into it. They haven’t made contact with the dead or anything but they sometimes get answers to questions and its super spooky.”

“I don’t know if I’m game,” mutters Twitch.

“Don’t be batty, it is only a game,” says Pam.

“My Welsh Aunt believes in it,” says Jo.

“Ridiculous! Stuff and nonsense for the gullible,” scoffs Esther as we scatter to find torch, glass, pen and paper. Smug Esther deigns to watch.

Gullible eh! An idea sprouts. I move to the telephone in the passage and dial the number for Bishop Julius, the Anglican hostel, a mere five-minute bike-ride away. A brief conversation takes place with Beth Brown, ex-Secret Six member, code number 6.6.

The lights are out when I slip back into the common-room. Jo is pulling faces with a torch under her chin. “I heard you calling from the grave,” she wails. “Ask me what you will.”

“Can you act your age?” asks Esther.

I join the huddle round the alphabet-encircled glass. Pam is adding an opposing yes and no for speedy replies. Jo quits mucking around and directs the torch at the upturned glass. Muffled giggles snuffle to silence. Seven fingers rest lightly on the glass and slowly the glass takes on a life of its own. Questions are suggested. Yes, Maureen will pass the maths test. Vera will to get an A for her art assignment. No, there won’t be ice-cream for pudding tomorrow. Waipuna will win a beauty contest. Jo will have lots of lovers. The questions become more complex. Jo’s lovers will be foreigners. Pam’s boyfriend will propose before the year is out and she will have four children. “Is anything strange going to happen?” ventures Twitch.

The glass gathers momentum and sweeps like a dodgem-car. Yes, indicates the first curve. A dark stranger bearing strange tidings, spells ‘The Force.’

“Does the stranger have a name?” I ask.

B-E-T-H the glass replies.

With the lights on feelings range from spooked to sceptical. I take a philosophical stance and declare, “Anything is possible.”

“And how many flying pigs have you met?” inquires Esther.

Twitch starts to say something as the doorbell sounds.

“Someone for Molly,” calls the duty Deac.

“Who is it?” I call back.

“Someone called Beth.”

The gang crowds into the passage.

“Dark hair,” observes Jo with a direct stare at Esther.

“Dark hair,” echoes Twitch.

“Do you have a message for us, asks Jo, “Any strange tidings?”

“Strange tidings? You lot are totally strange!” Twitch has a fit of nervous giggles but is silenced by an icy look from the Stranger. “It so happens I did see that Matron of yours as I came through The Square. She was going into the picture theatre with a rather distinguished looking older-man.”

Shrieks of amazement are followed by a volley of questions but Beth has nothing more to say on the subject. “I have some special news for Molly, but there is something I would like to know?”

“What?” asks Pam.

“Why the pentacle?” Isn’t the pentacle a symbol of witchcraft?” All eyes follow the visitor’s gaze to a red star on the front door.

“Five points,” says Jo.

“Blood!’ gasps Twitch.”

“Your hostel is weird,” says the visitor. I’m not hanging around here. Molly, can you come for a coffee at The Cauldron?”

A few days later I return the favour, though my pentacle got no closer than the gatepost of Bishop Julius Hostel.

“Why didn’t you put the pentacle on our front door?” Beth asks, tucked away in our favourite corner of The Cauldron.

“I would have but…,” I doodle sugar into my cappuccino. “It has been a sweet week. Everyone is talking about Miss P’s distinguished gent, and even better, Esther pestered me for the news you brought. I told her I am likely to be given two tickets for West Side Story. She is doing everything I suggest – our room has never been so clean. And, she’s taken out a heap of library books on the occult. I skim them when she’s out. She thinks I’m some sort of authority and actually asks my opinion. Had I been caught your Matron would have told our Matron and the game would be up. Besides, I don’t care to incur Miss P’s displeasure – she was hopping mad over the lipstick on our door.”

* * *

Beth and I promoted a rumour that West Coasters are known for being psychic – caused by proximity to many ghost towns, we said. But I lost my appetite for dealings with the ‘other side’ in a major way. For this year too brought trauma – unbelievable and indelible trauma, the death of my father – Ernest Austin Sinclair, in his 54th year, at his home, suddenly, no suspicious circumstances (they might as well have put it in capital letters BY HIS OWN HAND) leaving a wife and three children.

* * *

Dad hasn’t come in for tea. It is a ‘Dad and Dave’ night. Along the Road to Gundagai blares over the airwaves. No one likes missing the favourite serial, especially Dad. He grew up on a farm. I hold the button longer this time. The intercom is Dad’s own two-valve invention that links his shed with the kitchen. It works really well, but not tonight apparently. Nathan runs out to the shack and finds him.

26th of August, the day after Nathan’s 15th birthday, a never to be forgotten date. Dinner the night before had been the traditional family party – cake, candles, presents, followed by board games. Dad had been on a winning streak, winning two out of three games of Cluedo.

Dad didn’t use rope, dagger or candlestick. He used electricity and water. He didn’t leave a note. An accident? He was meticulous to the nth degree. We couldn’t even pretend. The coroner’s report in The Grey River Argus took care of that.

How could anyone do such a thing? How could he? Why did he do it? It was so stupid! So hurtful… so wrong!

My own father, a happily married man; he had no vices, no worries, a good job – supervisor of the telephone exchange. No one can understand it – police, neighbours, workmates, or Labour Party associates.

Why Dad, why? You didn’t have enemies. You didn’t owe money. You didn’t drink, smoke, or gamble. You loved us and we loved you. How could you do this to the people you love. If something was going wrong for you why didn’t you tell us! We would have helped. You know we love you. Didn’t we tell you… maybe we didn’t tell you? If we didn’t tell you it was because we thought you knew.

Something must have been going very wrong. But whatever it was, how could we be better off without you? We need you. Mum needs you. It hurts. If only there was a reason. If only you had left a note or given some clue. If only!

* * *

Dad left everything in order, possessions tidy, bills paid. Luckily it was the start of the holidays, we had time to cope. Luck… or carefully planned? Dad was meticulous by nature and knew the Scriptures. “He set his house in order and hanged himself.” 2 Samuel 17:23.

Is he safe on that Beautiful Shore? The question was never voiced. Everyone was kind, especially the church folk. Mum wrote copious grateful-thanks notes. We kept out of her way knowing she was stressed-out on humiliation. The church had standards. Not that anyone said so but the words sat silent on each blank sheet – ‘Suicide is a sinful and cowardly act.’

We suffered the classic symptoms of grief, since learned from magazine articles – shock, denial, anger, guilt, fear, hostility, plus an extra one – shame. Feelings weren’t named in those days. Our grief was silent, personal and self-blaming. That’s how it was – pain smothered to smoulder, cankering the soul until semi-forgotten.

A decade passed before we shared our silent guilt. Nathan regretted his adolescent indifference, but despite a full-on teenage lifestyle schoolwork and chores usually got done. He was a good all rounder, popular and enterprising – ice-cream boy at the pictures by standard five, a Press paper run at 14. I’m sure Dad was proud of him.

Mum felt she should have spent more time with Dad, but they had different interests. Separate pursuits suited their relationship.

I was convinced I’d brought trouble with the train crash. Rail workers were strong among the party faithful. I had caused a Greymouth man to lose his driver’s job. Even so our railway neighbour gave us a bag of coal and said he was really sorry, Ernie was a good chap, a good worker for the Party.

* * *

We didn’t talk about Dad much. Neither did anyone else. What could they say? The usual platitudes – a blessed release from suffering, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, a terrible accident, safe in the Lord, his number was up, God calls his own, and so forth, just didn’t apply.

Dreams bother sleep, the old complicated dreams – Deaconess House, miles of passages, lost on a ship below deck, the three-headed dog, the steaming train plunging from grey gorge to grey hospital and always a bell ringing. And new dreams – me causing indiscriminate death or finding Dad sitting zombie-like in his chair, having to tell him he was dead and didn’t belong here; interpreting his hurt as betrayal.

In the absence of reason I searched for memories to hoard – conjuring up his slight figure singing in the garden, hunting for reading glasses, radio tinkering…treasuring special times in his shack – speaking into the microphone, hearing crackling replies from ‘hams’ in faraway places.

When I was ten Dad helped me build a headphone crystal-set, and tried to teach me Morse code. I never mastered it. Mum had though, back in courting days, when he was going for his wireless ticket. Dad told me they went on picnics and sent each other love messages with Morse keys; so romantic, and so unlike them.

Dad was a bit of a loner, being a non-drinker in our neighbourhood. He spent summer evenings in garden or shack, and winter nights listening to the BBC or reading by the fire – wireless magazines and Yates Garden Guide. Truth and Man Magazine stayed in the shack. Mum’s house was not to be sullied. She tolerated his taste in humour with mock despair and head-shaking as he chuckled over cartoons and booklets such as Pigs Is Pigs. His favourite funny was The Specialist, about a man who applied much thought as to the best location and decor for his privy.

I saved memories like shining magazine pictures but couldn’t dignify them with order and theme. I hoped for light but found only shadows, uncomfortable shadows. I recalled his gait, a slight limp – something I hadn’t noticed until a 12-year-old classmate commented, “How come your Dad walks funny?”

On ANZAC Days my father’s poppy bled in solitude on his dark suit. He stood with head inclined as medalled peers paraded. Maybe not drinking helped! My dad could never share the camaraderie of contemporaries embellishing war yarns at the RSA.

I glimpsed the unspoken shame of polio; his hating of sports day at school, compulsory age races, where he always came last, a deliberate tripping, broken arm and weeks of plaster and sling. He told the story lightly saying his big mistake was breaking his left arm, had it been the right he could have got off writing as well as sport.

Nathan appeared to get over it. He was a logical lad, not given to sentimentality. “A great support for your poor mother,” remarked those who had to say something. He wore the responsibility of garden, lawns and firewood as a mantle of maturity. I was proud of him, and didn’t suspect cloaked feelings.

Mum missed Dad but she was a woman of inner strength, not one to weep, or accept ‘pills to help’ rumoured available from the doctor. Devout Christians had to cope. To be seen not coping was a betrayal of faith.

Despite clearly defined co-operative roles my parents were independent souls. Mum learnt how to write cheques and deal with insurances, and lengthened her formidable list of church and community good works.

I returned to Deac House for the final term and every time I looked at my radio I thought of my father and wondered why.

* * *

Years later Danny told me why. On his last visit before emigrating, Dad and Dan had talked as never before. They’d hugged and cried. I’d never seen my father cry, nor hug a son past baby stage. Danny told of his love for Archie and the problems of leading a double life. He shared feelings of rejection and coming to terms with being different. In return, Dad bared his soul, confessing a lifetime of feeling inadequate. He didn’t want to cope with physical problems any longer. Life wasn’t worth it. Inadequate! Physical problems? Dad never complained about anything!

True, Danny agreed, Dad wasn’t inadequate and never complained. He seemed fine but polio left him with deteriorating weaknesses. Nagging arthritis pain wore him down. He gave it a name, CC, Constant Companion.

Then, I remembered Aspro boxes…Dad carefully unwrapping white pills and rolling the waxed-paper strip, just something he did, like shaving.

Danny told me Dad was frustrated with his eyesight – myopic all his life, dealing with additional reading glasses was almost beyond bearing. Surely not! Lots of people need two pairs of glasses. Danny equated increasing disability with loss of self-esteem, said anyone can cope with one problem, multiple problems compound and knock the ego. He reminded me of Dad’s slight hearing loss, not a problem one-to-one, but enough to make him feel foolish in some group situations. Dad feared it might affect his job. However, these inconveniences merely contributed to Dad’s private misery. The real problem was too humiliating to talk about, too humiliating to write about – a bowel condition, prognosis, loss of control. He didn’t want anyone to know.

Danny understood. He had considered taking his own life. He felt he’d been cursed until he met Archie. He’d tried talking Dad out of it but had said goodbye, just in case, and agreed not to tell anyone. Dad told Danny he loved us dearly. We had all brought him joy. Life had been good. He intended it to stay good.

* * *

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6 — Ruth

Tuesday, 10 March

Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled that there was a famine in the land … So begins of the Book of Ruth.”

Kat slides in beside Jen. “Got held up,” she mutters.

“In ancient Hebrew literature, ‘There was a famine in the land’ equates to our ‘Once upon a time’ — a phrase that indicates a story will follow. ‘There was a famine in the land’ was a way of moving a character from where they were to somewhere else, the humdrum of ordinary life being no basis for a good story. ‘There was a famine in the land’ catches attention. The situation requires resolution, and thus a plot is born.”

Jen wants to think on this but can’t because Kat is whispering again. “Excellent Parts has a prime seat today.”

Jen notes Darlene scribbling notes in the centre of the front row, and wonders if today’s blue t-shirt bears a logo. She also wonders just how excellent the girl’s parts are. It is so effortlessly easy for the young.

“This is a story of three strong women making decisions for themselves. Sixty-five percent of the Book of Ruth is dialogue. With speech being, as it is, in the present tense, the action is pulled into the now. This increases the liveliness of the characters. In a time when women who could not claim a father or husband disappeared, here is a remarkable story of strong women, decision makers, women taking charge of their own destiny. It is likely that this story was originally told to women by women. It is the one Bible book in Scripture that may have been developed by women.” Sarai moves to the whiteboard, marker poised. “What are the ways this story can be read?”

“A love story,” ventures Ms Serious.

“Why?” asks Sarai.

“Verses from Ruth are often read at weddings.” Philippa Tombs’ father is a member of the University Council. Philippa takes her studies seriously.

“As history,” volunteers the guy who isn’t Steve. “It is set in a defined time, when the Judges ruled the land.”

“Loyalty and generosity,” pipes up Darlene. “Ruth was loyal. Boaz was generous.”

Sarai’s direct gaze bores into the Maori student. “Miss Tainui?”

“Survival — marginalised women struggling against the odds.”

“Quite so. Any other suggestions?”

The class remains still. Sarai returns to the lectern.

“Ruth is an exceptional book in many ways and not least in that it is the only book in the Old Testament without a word of condemnation for anyone. Beginning with a famine the text moves from the barrenness of Moab, its barren land and its barren women, to the renewed fertility of Bethlehem, a good harvest, marriage, and the fertility of a son. The first intended audience would have been shocked to hear of a Hebrew couple moving from Bethlehem to Moab, and worse, allowing their sons to marry Moabite women. The tribe of Moab originated from incest.

“Naomi is widowed — and justly so, in the minds of the listeners. With few options, like the prodigal, she decides to return home. Her daughters-in-law start to go with her but she reminds them they have mothers of their own and the possibility of remarriage. The women weep, kiss and cling. Orpah obeys Naomi’s wish and returns to her mother’s house. Ruth utters a speech of undying loyalty, to which Naomi has no response.” Sarai considers the faces before her. “The text implies they walked on in silence. What possible reason could there be?”

The students lower their eyes, each hoping they will not be cornered. Unfazed, Sarai continues. “Chapter one ends with the tantalising words, they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. Soon Ruth is gleaning in the fields behind the barley reapers. Naomi has directed Ruth to the field of a kinsman. The Hebrews considered all foreigners promiscuous but Moabites despicably so. Naomi does not warn Ruth about the local men. Does Naomi see molestation as a way of acquiring a husband? Was a Moabite daughter-in-law an embarrassment to an Israelite from a land-owning family? The traditional view is Naomi harboured the hope that Boaz himself would notice the good-looking young woman, as indeed he did. He even kept a paternal eye on the stranger, suggesting she stay near his female workers and drink from the well-water drawn by his men — an interesting reversal of the usual Biblical male-female meetings at wells. Name one?”

Jen forgets to avoid eye contact. Luckily Rebekah comes to mind. Kat supplies Rachel. It is her grandmother’s name and her story has stuck.

“Any others?”

“Zipporah, wife of Moses,” says Darlene.

The ‘excellent’ reply causes Darlene to hide her face in her hands.

“Boaz,” resumes Sarai, “invites the foreign woman to share his own bread and wine. This is tantamount to welcoming her into his family. Loyal Ruth keeps some of the food offered her to take home to Naomi. After the meal Boaz instructs his reapers to leave larger than usual gleanings. In chapter three Naomi masterminds a plan and Ruth appears to be a willing participant. At the end of the harvest party a merry Boaz lies down on the hay and Ruth curls up at his feet. Feet as used here is a biblical euphemism for genitalia. Boaz commends Ruth for not going after the younger men and spreads his cloak over her — more euphemistic symbolism.

“After the threshing-floor incident Ruth is no longer described as foreigner, servant or handmaiden. Boaz calls her a worthy woman. Naomi calls her daughter and the narrator calls her woman. A closer relative than Boaz is willing to honour the law regarding widows and buy the field owned by Naomi’s husband, until he finds it has a condition attached. A condition imposed by Boaz: with the land parcel comes the foreign woman. The kinsman has no wish to marry a Moabitess and forfeits his claim. Thus Boaz is able to legally acquire both the field and the woman.

“The matriarchs of the town are generous in their good wishes. Their blessings make references to Leah and Rachel. We know skulduggery was rife in that household. They also express the hope that Ruth will be as Tamar, presumably a fertility wish, as Tamar bore twins, the result of seduction and trickery. The text implies that Naomi’s friends know and approve of what has happened. The harvest-hints of fertility come to pass: Boaz and Ruth produce a child, whom the women call a child born to Naomi. How might Ruth feel about this? It is the women who name the baby: Obed, meaning sought-after. Baby Obed becomes the father of Jesse, who is the father of David. The child of a Moabite woman is destined to be the grandfather of King David. The greatest of Israel’s kings was not of pure blood! Set against the barley harvest, the Book of Ruth carries a premonition of David’s reign being blessed with fertility and plenitude.

Sarai returns to the whiteboard. “Ruth may be a testament to loyalty and generosity, but also to … ” she writes compromise. “The story is not a simple tale set in the time of the Judges.” Non– is added to historical. “Its content is political and devised at a later time, possibly during King Solomon’s reign. Placed here it explains the importance of the genealogy connection to King David, as it could support the international marriages of his insatiable son, Solomon. If written, as is considered more likely, during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah this story is protest literature. Post-exilic laws enforced the divorce of all foreign women. Imagine that!” Sarai’s arms spread with visualised horror. “Families torn apart, women and children driven out with no one to provide for them.” Her expression is so dramatic a collective shudder ripples through the room.

“Are there other ways of reading this story?” asks the rhetorician, and answers, “Of course there are. Ruth speaks the language of Covenant Israel. She denies her own culture. The subscript could be an underlying goal of turning Moab into Israel.” Sarai adds assimilation then propaganda to the list. “But perhaps it is also a personal story.” Love story is underlined. “Not a story of personal fulfilment, but rather the story of a young woman prepared to do anything for the one she loves.” Sarai twirls back to the board, writes, then exits the room. Her final red-lettered words are unrequited love.

As they file out Darlene stops in the lobby, apparently lost in thought. Percussionists usually do it standing announces her shirt. “Hullo, Darlene,” says Jen, deliberately disturbing her reverie, “are you a percussionist?”

“No,” Darlene looks blank. She gives herself a slight shake and follows Jen’s eyes to the logo. She smiles. “I’m a cellist. The youth orchestra is fundraising with these t-shirts. I’m majoring in music. This is an interest class for me and I’m really enjoying it.”

“Me too,” says Jen.

~ ~ ~ | ~ ~ ~

Kat arrives at the motel early. She doesn’t usually work Tuesday afternoons but has a new client to fit in. She decides to take the opportunity to check out the Ruth story. Is it a love story between an older man and a young woman, or is Ruth a lesbian? Kat has no leanings toward lesbianism. Such words were not spoken in her grandmother’s house, but it was known around school that such a person was running a business in Hokitika. The kids weren’t too sure of the facts and there was confusion between lesbian and transgendered.

City life had broadened her education considerably. A friend in the sex business had suggested she have a go at tipping the velvet but it hadn’t turned her on. Didn’t take long to discover Christchurch has lots of queers. Kat quickly concluded that, like in all minority groups, some individuals are nice and some aren’t. As she said to Jen, Darlene seems a Decent Sort of Dyke. Both had grinned at the alliteration, and since then refer to her as Triple D, though agreed it doesn’t describe her bra size.

Kat had thought homosexuality a modern thing but Jen maintained the ancient Greeks wrote plays about it, so presumably all the ancients were into it. Jen had related that back in her Bible Class days the kids used to snigger about King David being bisexual, he was a great one with the ladies but the love he had for King Saul’s son Jonathan was described in the Bible as ‘passing the love of women’ — what else could it mean?

After rereading the four-page Book of Ruth, Kat feels the ‘noble-older-man-meets-pretty-but-poor-young-woman’ story is the romantic tale she prefers. But Ruth is unnaturally keen to do all she can for her mother-in-law, to the point of not being her own person. If Kat had a child she wouldn’t let any mother-in-law claim it and name it. Any child Kat gave birth to would be hers to the full.

A knock causes her to shove the Bible back in its drawer. Why do they come early? She admits the new client and is charmed by his easy casual manner. He gives his name as Fish and looks at her with warm appraisal. “You’re a good-looking chick, Amber. Delighted to meet you,” he extends a hand and gives hers a no-nonsense squeeze.

Amber places his age at around 50, dark red hair, no sign of receding. Untamed beard, bright eyes, and lean figure. Clothes ‘flamboyant casual’, she decides. “Like the hat,” she comments.

Fish is in no hurry. “Good little pad you have here, discreet back street but not far from the city centre.” He sinks into an armchair, extends his long legs and gazes around. “Paintings, not prints, I like that. A view of the Waimak I would guess, not brilliant, but definitely original, probably done by an art student.” He stands. “See here, paint applied with a pallet knife, technique not perfect but good general effect.” He roams the room. “Homely ambience, that’s the thing about these older motels, lounge separate from the bedrooms, built for people not for profit.” He continues his tour. “A full kitchen and well stocked.” He looks at his watch. “Almost three, smoko time. Do you fancy a cup of tea or coffee? I’m sure you deserve a break.” His eyes flick from her cream carnation hair-slide to her cream high-heels, and he flashes a smile. Amber feels warmed. Perhaps I’m one of those women who is drawn to older men, she wonders.

“I sure could do with a cuppa,” says Fish. He glances at her with eyebrows raised. “No worries, matey, I’m in a quick-bonk mood. I’ll be gone by three-thirty.”

“Well, OK then,” says Amber. “I could go a coffee.”

She stands to get the jug but Fish is already filling it. “I did a stint as a motel cleaner once. A good bit of elbow grease has gone into this jug, I can tell you, and those copper-bottom pots. Look at them, beautiful! I can’t stand those crappy plastic jugs.”

Sometimes clients stall because they’re nervous, but Fish doesn’t fit that category — too relaxed. She wonders if he has some kinky fetish that he wants to discuss, but dismisses the idea — too open and friendly. Perhaps he genuinely likes a three o’clock cuppa.

“I haven’t been in Christchurch for a while,” he says. “Been down South Canty for a couple of years. I like to go bush every now and then, but you can have too much of good thing, I say. I like to maintain balance between the heartland and the hub.”

“What do you do?”

“A bit of this and a bit of that, I don’t believe in getting stuck in a rut. Hunting, trapping, shearing, painting, shop work, liquor barns … townie jobs are my form of retail therapy.” He grins.

“So Canterbury is your home?”

“I like Canty but no, I’m not fenced in by boundaries, my home is anywhere in the South Island. You wouldn’t catch me in that rat race up north. Hell no!” He pauses as though letting the horror of the thought digest. “Let the Wellington weirdoes and the Jaffas have it,” I say.

“I gather you don’t have a partner.”

“I’ve had many, my dear, but not for long. Women have this urge to claim a man. When I see the apron-strings looping my way, it’s time to sever the ties. I had seven kids last time I counted, could be more, keeping track is not my thing. I’m a free spirit and I like a good bonk. Let’s get on with it.”

He sweeps up her empty cup from the floor, dumps the two cups in the kitchen sink, swings back to the lounge, and drops his trousers. The pro hasn’t moved.

“Ah, you like a guy to shower. OK. I’m fast. I’m used to improvised water supplies. Be with you in a couple of secs.”

The pro appears frozen. Fish steps out of his trousers, takes two steps toward the shower and stops. “Hey, what’s up, kiddo? You’re not going frigid on me are you?”

Kat can feel her innards churning. The words don’t want to come. With effort she forms the sentence. “Were you at Ross in 1987?”

“Yeah, could have been around then, spent a couple of years in those parts. Oh God!” He cuts off and stares. “How old are you?”

Kat is on her feet, hands clenched to knuckle-white. “You don’t care about your kids. You don’t care about your women.” Her voices rises to a scream. “Get out!”

“Hey, hey, baby, baby, hush.” Fish hauls up his jeans with the speed of a shotgun order.

“Don’t touch me,” she fights off his attempted hug. “I’m not your baby. You never treated me as your baby when you should have.”

Fish steps back and holds up both hands in surrender. “It’s not like that. I do care. I’m just not fitted to domestic life. I’ve got these gypsy genes. I loved your mother, I really did, but I wasn’t ready to be a father. I told her but I couldn’t get her to believe me.”

“Children need fathers.”

“Yeah, yeah, but you had one, your mother took up with someone mighty quick, so I heard. I even came back to check. You were a cute toddler. She had a man, I wasn’t needed.”

“You didn’t pay any child support.”

“Well, my lifestyle wasn’t conducive to regular income and payouts. Keeping records isn’t easy with odd-jobbing, money under the counter, you know how it is. Bet you don’t declare all your earnings. Paintings often sell for cash. I’m not one for permanent addresses and keeping accounts.”

“Your slippery book-keeping kept my mother tied to man she didn’t love. And he hated me. George was a monster but at least he supported his own kids. You say I’m not the only one. I’ve a horde of half-siblings out there? You’re worse than George. You can bugger off, right now. Go!”

“Hey, hey, Amber … it’s not Amber is it … it’s … Katrina? You were my first baby girl. I’m sorry kid. I like you. I’d like to get to know you as a person. If you feel I’ve let you down I could try and make it up. If you ever want me, here’s my card.” He leaves a business card and a heap of $20 notes on the table.

Kat slams the door after him and locks it, sees the items on the table and dissolves into tears. After filling several tissues she dries her eyes and picks up the card. Kevin (Fish) Salmon, she reads, Artist. Bullshit artist!

 

Wednesday, 11 March

Kat spends most of the next day in bed. Yesterday’s meeting with her birth-father has left her drained. Part of her wants to process the reality of the encounter, but only a tiny part. Her dominant head-in-the-sand philosophy smothers what she doesn’t want to explore — keep your mind off difficulties, no point getting in a stew over something you can do nothing about. Gran’s homespun philosophy serves her well. Roll with the punches. Life’s what you make it. There is nothing a good sleep can’t improve.

Sleep is attractive, no clients to bother about today and there is the restaurant tonight. Waitressing has its pluses. She could manage financially without it but it is legit, a job she can name without explanation, a job that provides a measure of collegiality. Her self-employment is solo by choice. She has no intention of sharing her earnings with brothel or pimp. Waitressing is hard on the feet, the pay abysmal, but you know where you are and what to expect. Tuesday is the lightest of her three consecutive nights. Wednesday is unpredictable but she and Alison can handle it. Three table staff are required for the rest of the week.

Only four tables are occupied as her shift begins. Returning from the kitchen with a jug of iced water Kat is startled to see Sarai and another woman being ushered to a table by the maître d’. Well, I’ll be darned. Sarai here! And she’s got a girlfriend with her. Kat’s curiosity is aroused. She’s heard the rumours. How friendly are these two women? Could they be celebrating something special, or are they merely eating out? Kat skips explaining the menu to her couple and shortcuts to the blackboard specials.

“We’re celebrating 44 years of marriage,” the man beams.

Kat offers her congratulations and says she will fetch the wine waiter. Forty-four years, double my lifetime! Are they really as happy as they look? With the wine-waiter summoned Kat moves smartly to Sarai’s table and gives the formal welcome. “Good evening, I am Katrina your waitress for the evening.” Her smile has more twinkle than management requires.

“How lovely!” exclaims Sarai. “Pauline, this is one of my students.”

The other woman is younger than Sarai, Kat notices, but still old. Pauline easily meets her gaze and expresses pleasure. Kat is not surprised that they both order the vegetarian special. The friend, Pauline, has her back to the kitchen and is unaware of Kat approaching with the water jug. “Just like old times …” Kat hears her say. Sarai is smiling but Kat observes it as an indulgent smile. Sarai is sitting well back in her chair, whereas Pauline is leaning forward. Kat puts the jug down and sees Pauline’s wistful expression slide to mouth a perfunctory thanks. Mmm, thinks Kat, have I interrupted something?

However, when she returns with the mains both women are happily chatting over chardonnay. She keeps a wandering eye on them as she serves her other tables but detects not a hint of physical intimacy.

The anniversary couple are kneeing each other under the table. They are mildly tipsy by the time they decide to ‘go the full hog’, as the man puts it, and have the death-by-chocolate. “We didn’t have a fruit cake for our wedding,” confides his wife. “We both hate dried fruit. Under the posh icing was chocolate cake.” The memory sets her to a peal of giggles. Kat gives a polite smile, turns to do their bidding, and freezes. Standing by the maître d’ is … it can’t be … it totally can’t be … but it is … with a leggy young woman. Kat flees to the kitchen. This is something she cannot face. She gives the death-by-chocolate order and hangs around the kitchen, desperately hoping that Alison will arrive and she can ask her to serve that table. Alison doesn’t appear but the maître d’ does. “What are you doing? There are customers out there, move it.” Miss Hicks, as she demands the table staff call her, is not open to favours.

Kat edges through the swinging doors with her heart in her mouth. She sees Sarai look in her direction and heads for her table.

“Is something wrong, Kat?”

“Yes, actually there is.” How does she know? The rest comes in a rush. “I know you don’t want a dessert but please, Sarai, would you order something, anything. If I’m not serving you I’ll have to serve that table over there, and I … can’t face that man. I’ll pay for whatever you order.” The women look from Kat, to Fish, to each other.

“I could make room for an Irish coffee,” says Pauline.

“Why not,” agrees Sarai. “Two Irish coffees, and take your time, we’re not in a hurry. And Kat, we don’t need your money.”

~ ~ ~ | ~ ~ ~

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Free Study Guide to Green, Ho! & Greens and Greys

A Free Study Guide by Rosalie Sugrue is now available for her books Green, Ho! & Greens and Greys.

The 9 page PDF guide is titled: A Novel approach to Bible Study: Personal Issues for Christians for Lent/Easter or whatever the Season.

Each of the 6 sessions looks at an important concept:
1. Values learnt in childhood
2. Faith in Youth
3. Sexual orientation
4. Suicide
5. Situation ethics and social justice
6. Mature faith

You will explore each issue by asking:
• Why did Molly do what she did?
• What would I have done in that situation?

Click this link to: Download your free PDF Study Guide

 

“With imagination and insight the author shares acute observations on life…” Review by John Meredith of Greens and Greys

Book review published on Tui Motu Interislands Facebook page 12 August 2015

Greens and Greys
by Rosalie Sugrue

Philip Garside Publisher, Wellington, 2015, 212 pages.

Reviewed by John Meredith

“Rosalie Sugrue draws on her personal knowledge of people and places and weaves this into the fictional story of Molly Sinclair. As Molly’s thoughts and observations come tumbling out, the story reads rather like a diary. In other ways, however, it is a thought-provoking critique of social values and narrow-mindedness.

Molly has grown up on the West Coast in a secure and loving home. She knows the behaviour expected of her. In addition to her parents she has her church and Girl Guides as moral mentors. Nevertheless she is not wholly insulated. She is sexually harassed by an older man. Her brother is gay and, although never spoken of at home, this leaves unanswered questions in her mind. Later she has to face the incomprehensible suicide of her father. When Molly is diagnosed with a depressive illness readers are allowed a glimpse of historic conditions in a psychiatric hospital.

Moving to Christchurch as a student Molly is conscious of the values she brings with her. While she has a new freedom and is able to talk about sex and romance with her friends, she is also constrained by the rules and expectations of a church-run student hostel. New horizons unfold when she moves to teach in a small town. There is security in flatting with friends with whom she has shared student hostel life.

Eventually Molly embarks on her planned OE. She travels to England and Europe. Far from the constraints of home Molly is introduced to alcohol and sex. She finds romance but also experiences sexual abuse at the hands of an adult whom she believed wanted to help her. At one point fearing the consequences of pregnancy Molly considers suiciding. Returning to New Zealand she marries and raises four children. More confident in herself Molly embraces a feminist perspective and recognises how culture impacts on faith and ethics.

With imagination and insight the author shares acute observations on life as seen through the eyes of Molly Sinclair. Those who grew up in the 1960s and who are aware of how much attitudes have changed since then will feel they are on a journey with a fellow traveller. The story also recalls advertising jingles, jokes, sayings, songs and experiences almost lost in the mists of memory. The story depicts not just the colour of the landscape but the grey of confusion always washed with the green of hope.”

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Praise for Greens and Greys by Rosalie Sugrue

Here is what two readers have said about Rosalie’s enthralling new novel:

“Molly’s story will take you through experiences spiritual and sexual seldom talked about openly, but so often struggled with in silence. The skilful and insightful choice of words – both descriptive and sometimes disturbing – creates images and recalls memories for people of all ages. This book is engaging, informative, entertaining and challenging.” Rev Loyal Gibson

 “Thank you Rosalie for your passion for social justice. This book challenges us to think about complex issues that unfortunately are still very real today. It is thought-provoking and an ideal book for group discussion and dialogue. Each chapter brings to life questions and a reality we sometimes would rather avoid for fear of the unknown. We all have a responsibility to care and make a stand for life.”
Mataiva D. Robertson: Social Issues Convenor for Sinoti Samoa, Methodist Church of New Zealand

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Ten Plays gets great review in Touchstone Nov. 2014

Review by John Meredith in Touchstone – November 2014

“The pattern of Sunday worship is generally fairly predictable, but congregations appreciate something different at family services and especially at Advent and Christmas.

This is scarcely surprising, since the birth of Jesus and the events leading to it shattered the expectations even of those who had long been watching and waiting for the appearance of the Messiah. We have become accustomed to nativity plays featuring grumpy innkeepers and shepherd boys on hillsides, but these 10 plays take us to quite a different realm.

After making suggestions about an Advent wreath and candles, Rosalie offers five meditations that may be used during the four Sundays in Advent, two meditations being read on one of these Sundays. The meditations titled ‘Christmas women’, are the voices of Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin), Anne (Mary’s mother), a woman traveller (one of many women on her way to Bethlehem for the census), the inn-keeper’s wife, and Anna (the prophetess).

These meditations are complemented with an Advent prayer for two voices. There are no bland words here, for the challenge is to think about what the coming of Jesus means for us in our world and what we need to do about it.

These Advent meditations are followed by a play titled ‘No Room,’ designed to promote the work of Christian World Service at a time when the annual CWS Christmas Appeal will be presented to many congregations. The play features two modern day families who learn that making room for Jesus includes making room for asylum seekers and that giving to CWS can help make lives better for people living in dreadful conditions.

There is also a play using 13 characters from the Christmas story with an activity of creating stick-puppets.

For Easter, the other major festival of the Christian Year, there is a play reading based on five women named in the Easter story.

Those looking for something different for Bible Sunday, Waitangi Day, Anzac Day or Wesley Day will also find it here.

One of the appealing features of this collection is the prominence of women throughout. The drama ‘Mahlah and Sisters’ draws attention to five little-known young women in the biblical narrative. Their stand for justice translates effectively to women’s rights and equal opportunities in today’s society.

In another play, voices of women from biblical times and early New Zealand history who used their initiative to build peace and harmony are heard in monologue.

As is stated on the cover, these are short easy dramas. Few props, staging or costumes are required.

Most of the plays work best with a combination of adults and children and lend themselves to reading without the need to learn scripts. All are readily adaptable for different physical settings and availability of characters.

They are highly commended as a resource for any church or group seeking imaginative ways of presenting gospel ideas and aspects of faith in action. Ten Plays is also available as an ebook.”


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