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Dancing Man

Page 4

Karen Lethlean

Our friendship is solid, illuminating, made more intense by never competing. Flourished beneath benign parents who loved Dorothy but largely neglected her. I enjoyed melodies, synapse and semantics of their Irish accents. Calm permeates their household, compared to missing pieces and gaping holes left in my own. Where loss might fill spaces equal to large items of furniture, indeed floorboards and rugs might tumble into gaps left behind from a father and uncle’s departure to various war fronts. What if Papa Bill didn’t come back, remained trapped somewhere in Europe, like remains of her uncle?

At least I got occasional letters. I clearly recall Father’s comments about my new haircut. 

Finally Mum’s eyes flicker, as if she’s woken from a little nap. Words begin to emerge, staggered, like language is becoming unfamiliar. Her facial muscles now need to work in preparation for talking, ‘Where do you think my father’s letters are?’

‘I’ll look in some of those boxes we packed.’

‘When can I go home?’

‘This is your home now.’

I bring a few photographs next visit. Found in a trinket box near those letters, correspondence I’m too afraid to deal with just yet. Pictures of office girls smiling in sunshine, streamers around functional work shoes, handbags, gloves. Crowd shots. Hats, a predominance of Navy caps, a few flags, largely British. Service uniforms, smiling girls, hair curled up short, long elegant necks on show. Kissing total strangers. Grinning faces.

‘Where did you work?’

‘Martin Place dear, APA insurance company. Met Aunty Dorothy there. Your uncle helped me get my job.’

‘Uncle Bill right, if he was too young for war service, how did he help you?’

‘No, he wasn’t much more than a big kid. My mother’s brother, Keith, had connections at Australian Provincial Association.’

‘So you worked in Martin Place.’

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