I KNOOOWWW!!! It’s the first day of School holidays here, and, to tell you the truth, I’ve been slacking off on Facebook all morning, and, really, I was a bit vague on what I wanted to say here anyway. I’m sorry.
This story is DEFINITELY fiction (unlike the last one, which was true). It’s also quite silly. I wrote it a couple of years ago, thinking about the town my Grandparents lived in. I miss it; in some way missing Shepparton has become my expression of missing them, not that we were ever close. But my love for hot summers and fresh apricots and scorched grass and lawn bowls tournaments, forcer biscuits, lemon butter, hydrangea bushes and brick suburban bungalows are fresh and strong, and every one of these things brings me fond memories of childhood summers in a place I may never see again. Here it is:
School finished for the year last week. Heat was prickly on my skin like cactus, and me and my brother were outside painting fake snow on our windows for Mum, like we’d been doing every year since we moved here when I was six and he was eight. Now he’s 13 and thinks he knows everything.
“What”. He said it like an insult.
“You know that Shepparton thing…”
Like he could’ve missed it. It was on all the TV stations all day for about a week after it happened. That truck driver that drove through that first morning and found it was all gone I reckon he’s a millionaire now with all the interviews he’s done. They even skipped the first game of the test series against India because of it. Shepparton shepparton shepparton shepparton…we’d never even heard of the place before the whole town up and disappeared like that.
“Dad said it’s aliens.” Tim wiped off the edge of his snow with a dirty tissue.
“Yeah but what would aliens want with Shepparton? Why didn’t they take Sydney or something?”
Tim looked sideways at me and wiped his nose on the back of his hand. “Maybe they like peaches.”
Mum was real cut up about the peaches she said. You couldn’t even get the tinned ones in the supermarkets, everyone was out, and Nan loved Peach Melba on her birthday. Mum’s had to make a pav. I hated pav. I didn’t even like Tim that much, but there wasn’t anyone else around to talk to.
“I think it’s my fault”.
By the time Tim stopped laughing it was getting dark but I just kept working on my snow. It’d been three weeks and I hadn’t said anything to anyone. The guilt felt like a blanket around me; tape around my mouth.
“You made Shepparton disappear. How?”
“The grade six social. I did it. I kissed a girl.” I felt myself getting red and I couldn’t look at Tim even though it was too dark to see much anyway. He wasn’t saying anything.
It was Trace Barker, and she was real pretty, with long hair and all. We were dancing on the slow song and I kind of went for her cheek but she moved her head just at the same time so it kind of ended up her lip, but a bit left.
“I just…I …you know…wanted to see…if it…did like you said.”
“See if what did?”
“See if the earth moved. Like you said it did with Suze.”
“And did it?” Tim sounded interested now.
“Well d’uh! That’s the problem. That’s the night that Shepparton disappeared!”
I was having my weetbix in the kitchen the next morning when Tim sat down opposite me all serious.
“You gotta kiss her again.”
“You gotta kiss her again. Come on Sam, if there’s really thousands of people missing off the face of the earth because of you then don’t you think you’ve gotta at least try and fix it?”
He’s right. All them people crying on the news. All them flowers left where it used to be. All that sad in me because only I know that it’s my fault.
Trace Barker lived on Gardener Terrace, which was a posh sounding name for a road that only really saw the arse end of town, and there wasn’t much gardening going on. Me and Tim rode our bikes over after brekky, stopped at the corner shop to get a box of chocolates. We stood in her porch, tracing the up-and-down weatherboards and wondering what the hell the rest of our plan was meant to look like. I tried to take a deep breath but as soon as I’d got my gob open there was Tim ringing the doorbell. Twice. I nearly belted him.
“What? This is what we’re here for, are ya gonna spend all day?”
“But what do I say? Come on, what do I bloody well SAY to her?”
And then it was too late, because the door opened and there she was in her Dad’s Collingwood dressing gown and her hair all sticking up stupid. And then Tim shoved me in the door and pulled it shut behind me all in one move. Far out! This is it. My bit for humankind.
* * * *
There wasn’t that much blood from what I could see, and Dr Andrews only gave me two stitches which was good I guess, because Trace brought that trophy down on me pretty hard after I kissed her. Dr Andrews didn’t believe me when I said I’d come off my bike, and I was feeling so cut up over the whole Shepparton thing that I started bawling right there in his surgery and told him everything. He was real good for an old bloke. He said it’s not my fault; that sometimes things happen that are bigger than we can understand, that even scientists are still trying to figure out half the stuff in the universe. It’s just weird stuff, or an act of God, or whatever. He said that I can’t take responsibility for something so big, that it’s just…just…
Except that it’s back now, so it looks like I was right after all.
Dad saw it on the telly. All them people in Shepparton all back, not knowing there’d been all those weeks missing, not knowing there was anything wrong at all. All that crying all over again, and more programs missed because of the updates. Tim hasn’t said anything at all, and he’s been real nice for a change. I’m keeping out of everyone’s way, outside getting sunburned again hanging fake icicles from the roof of the garage. Everyone’s happy because things are normal again. Good for them. All I know is that next year I’m going to a boys only high school…..and after that I’ll become a monk. Or a priest. Or a lighthouse keeper. Anything, so long as it don’t involve ever kissing girls.