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Bitter Sweet, 1986

Page 6

Gillian Barnett

For Claire too, Oliver’s Hill was glorious. She remembers the sensation of her legs stretched horizontally before her on the back seat of the family car. While she never leaped and barked like the dog she will one day own, tremors of happy anticipation ran through her. At Oliver’s Hill they always stopped at the base for a toilet break. Rusty water chilled your hands, then the visit to the doughnut shop opposite. A machine pooped them out into a canal of boiling oil, just the right height for her little-girl-gaze. The doughnuts swam along like ducks in a shooting gallery. At the end, a lady scooped them out, rolled them in sugar and inoculated them with a jab of jam. She was allowed two and her brother four, because he was nine years older. Back in the car, her tongue circled furiously, rounding up her clown’s mouth of sugar. The drive up the hill was a cascade of sugar and song, “Up-up we go, halfway there….”

Anticipating the next landmark, she leaned forward to help the car on its way. The stegosaurus drinking at a garden pool was life-sized, and for the first few times, alive for Claire. “It’s all right,” big brother patted her stickily. “They only eat plants.”

Unlike Max’s family, the stegosaurus still defies extinction, although one backbone plate has fallen off and its outline has grown mossy. Claire always tries to glimpse it from the new freeway.


Page 6

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