MY FOSTER mother believed I should have pocket money, a contrast to my real home. Hazel was a generous woman.
The base wage was $5 a week, as long as I went to school and helped feed the animals every evening. I later learned that the money was set at whatever school year I was in, so in the end I was getting $8 for being in Year 8.
If I wanted more I could earn it.
Hazel bought me a notebook so we could record the money I earned.
I wanted a Game Boy Colour more than anything else, but $110 in those days was like getting a $40,000 Toyota while on a journalist’s wage. So some hours of my Saturdays were spent raking manure and clearing sticks from the horse paddocks.
I hated clearing sticks. In some ways it was an easy job but the results of my work wasn’t as noticeable as cleaning something like a bedroom floor.
Often I succumbed to temptation and bought $7 packs of Pokemon cards, but only for the one rare card inside. And you never knew what it could be until you opened the pack, so it was fingers crossed you weren’t going to get your fourth Hypno or your seventh Muk.
To get extra cash I would every now and then gamble with my foster brother Joe.
Once we had a bucket of green bird’s eye chillies in a bucket in the dining room. “Bet me I could eat one for $2.5o?” I said.
“Okay,” he grinned, and so I spent the next 20 minutes screaming and going overboard with the milk.
“Alright! Enough milk,” Hazel ordered. “Try a banana.”
I hated bananas. Hated them. But I grabbed one from the fridge and fumbled at its ends. I was nearly 11-years-old and I still didn’t know how to peel one.