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It was a rugby tackle with tears: Chrissy burst in, sobbing and babbling, hugging James. Her face was all wet, eyes wild. What…? My parents split up, Dad has moved in with his boyfriend and I cannot join them. I am shut out. I have lost my dad. Torrent of tears and sobbing. And I must stay with Mom! More tears. Oh, I remember her: short, round, loud and perfect, said James. I know, I am a reject. 

They stumbled backwards onto the couch. And I’ve got a million problems! James was finishing his homework and switched into the music video Mille, the Italian Rapp hit by Fedez. Spectacular, swinging and much imitated. It caught Chrissy’s attention. You’ve solved one problem, it says, but I’ve got a thousand more.

You know I have been living by myself since my family split up last year. Split up is atom bomb and tsunami rolled into one: who can survive? Maybe we can help each other. But now let’s make a lemon-lime juice from Dubai. It is delicious. You wash the blender, I’ll get the ingredients, ok.

Have you any other family? In theory two aunts. I have an old teenage photo of my dad with his sisters; one is Julia. I have no addresses or phone numbers. Hercule Poirot, where are you?

Chrissy, you are a very bright girl and a tennis star. You could be an engineer or a scientist. I am applying for a scholarship to university with the Defence Force. There are many advantages and options, including a future and a home. Go on, you should apply too.

Tell me about the million problems. You mean, you haven’t noticed? I am super skinny. There is no cure.

Let me tell you something. A week ago, I went into town for a dim sum lunch, but it was a hundred times too noisy for me. So, I went to a duck restaurant nearby. Rugged up eating away, I felt someone staring at me under my cap and parka. It was a tall slim Chinese girl wearing light purple lipstick. I smiled. Offended, she moved away. I thought she was sexy, maybe wanted to kiss her. Guilty as charged.

Could you borrow some Chinese pizzaz and wear some lipstick, Chrissy? The colours are wonderful.

If you like, you could stay overnight in the guest bedroom, join me for a pancake and ice cream breakfast, and tan tomorrow on Bondi beach. How about it? 

Oh, I haven’t got a bikini with me. I’ll buy you one: surprise me with your choice. Guys are not permitted in the bikini boutique: the temptations are too great.

I suppose you had better ring your mom if you are staying. Otherwise, she will call the police; they will come here to arrest me for kidnapping, rape, murder and piracy.

James, you have ideas for me but what about you? No girlfriend? No. The sugar and spice and all things nice girls are extinct, like the Tasmanian devil. And I have had so much bullying and screaming at school. I’d like some apology, some atonement. Yom Kippur two. Of course, that will never come. 

Perhaps the old song has it. Some enchanted evening you may see a stranger across a crowded room. And somehow you know even then, you’ll be seeing her again and again.   The Japanese say somewhere there is a someone for me. It is an act of faith.

James, you’re a romantic. No, no way. Hard as nails.

A note lay on the breakfast table next morning. He didn’t dare to open it.


A man’s a man wrote Berthold Brecht. That covers it for Peter Wright, writer now.


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