THERE was an underlying atmosphere at my foster home which felt of depression, weariness, frustration.
Our family seemed like a Frankenstein monster. Each limb and part not quite fitting but stitched together as some mockery of normalcy.
My foster mother, Hazel, was a collector. She was burdened with the broken. A collection of former foster children, her elderly mother, her horses, her pug dogs, and even her own bad back.
Baz lived in a shed next to the house. I never went in there, but it was where he kept his chainsaws. I didn’t know much about him, except he once went to prison.
Hazel’s mother had the other half of the house. She was in her 80s, mostly sat in her lounge watching TV, and loved her jealous dog, Jimmy. Each time I visited she would tell me how she found Jimmy at the RSPCA.
And then there was the caravan shanty where Amber the bird-girl and her mother lived. One of them was a single mother, the other was being confronted with the sexuality and acceptance issues of high school.
Joe was in the bedroom next to mine. Schizophrenia was a mystery to me. Over the years he spoke less, retreated somewhere inside himself, as his repressed memories as an abused Indigenous child came to light, or so was my understanding. Almost every day he walked the 15 kilometres to town for a packet of smokes, a commodity appreciated by all the adults.
I couldn’t blame him. We lived in the bush and had no car or licence. Hazel caught the school bus once a week to go shopping.
That property was some sort of bubble. The air was stale. I wanted to get away.