I used to have a doll. Dolls. I used to have dolls. One was a baby with a nappy and I called her De Pond, I thought she was lovely and her name made her beautiful. I was that sure of my own idea of beauty that I could take some meagre looking assortment of flabby plastic limbs and a belly and cast real beauty on them. De Pond. I thought of quick angry brown ducks and hard crusts of bread and hot days in a busy park. I thought of ice cream in a cone and maybe going on the swings if mum would push me. I thought of toppling off of my bike and spreading the skin from my knee across the asphalt like vegemite over burnt toast. I thought of all the good things and sad things that might happen on an afternoon in, say, mid August that would smell like squishy orange leaves and a big dirty lake. All of those things fit inside two sweet syllables, De Pond.
I had a plastic football, I think it was yellow. I kicked it a lot. In the backyard I drew stumps with chalk on the red bricks of the outside dunny, and goal posts on the brittle wooden fence opposite, and played an amalgamation of the two greatest sports in the world.
I had a tree house, in a big old apple tree that grew real apples that mum would make into apple crumble. The tree house was made out of a platform that was wedged between two branches; there was a sort of ladder made out of two bits of wood nailed into the body of the tree.
My great grandad was buried underneath a lemon tree in the jungle. Ghosts and tigers and ghosts of tigers would moan, bare their metal teeth and keep me from sleeping till I had said my prayers properly. I prayed to God and He listened. He knew if I was lying so I don’t think I did very often.
Sometimes when the sun was brave I would be too, and I would visit great grandad in the jungle. I marked his grave with a coat hanger and wrote him letters and drew him pictures. But the letters and the pictures never lasted; the rain always mushed them up. One time I used a plastic pocket to protect a self-portrait, which I placed on great granddads grave. The rain still got it. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, maybe when my picture turned to ashes and dust if filtered down to great grandad, and he hung it up on the wall of his coffin? I hope so. I hope somewhere, bright and scribbled, that boy in the picture still exists.