Life: bits and pieces

A Christmas-themed offering for 2020: ‘Justice’ by Denise Newton

Justice

Justice. When we were kids, it was a ‘thing’ for Eddie and me. We would eye off each other’s scoops of ice cream, comparing. Eddie washed the dishes; I dried them. We were careful about dividing the last chocolate brownie evenly between us. Mum had a rule: one cuts, the other chooses. Maybe that’s where our unwavering commitment to equity between us came from.

So when Eddie received a shiny silver BMX bike for Christmas, the year he’d turned twelve and me ten, I looked from that marvel of a bike to my new cricket bat, and swallowed hard. I blinked back furious, stinging tears as I thanked Mum and Dad, and tried to pretend I was happy for my brother. Christmas Day was special. You weren’t meant to be angry or mean. 

I sought consolation in the books and three packets of lollies from Aunty June and popped a green jube in my mouth—surreptitiously, because Christmas lunch was about to happen and Mum didn’t like us eating junk food until after.

I was silent through lunch. Even Dad noticed.

‘You’re quiet today, Hannah.’

Eddie gave me a sidelong glance. I shrugged.

After we’d washed up, Eddie said, ‘Wanna game of cricket?’

I nodded and went to fetch my new bat. On the back lawn we set up the bins as stumps. The sun was blistering, and I squinted in the yellow glare. Eddie prepared to bowl, but instead of watching the ball’s trajectory my eyes wandered to his new bike, propped against the Hills Hoist. The unfairness of it rose in a bitter flood. I made a wild swing as the ball zipped past and I missed it.

‘Can I join in?’ It was Aunty June, dashing out the back door towards us. ‘Am I too late? Didn’t want to miss the boat.’

She was grinning. Aunty June was fun, but my nod was grudging. She either ignored my sulkiness or didn’t notice it. She took up her fielding position by the shed.

Eddie bowled again, and this time I connected. My new bat made a loud thwack followed by a strangled sound from Eddie as he crumpled to the ground.

‘Eddie!’ shrieked Aunty June as she ran to him.

I stood frozen to the spot.

‘Hannah, go get your mum.’ Aunty June held her hanky to my brother’s face. The white cloth turned pink, then red, beneath her fingers.

‘Hannah!’

I gave a start and ran into the house, yelling, ‘Mum! Eddie’s bleeding!’

Twenty minutes later, Eddie was prone on the sofa, an ice pack pressed to the side of his jaw. Aunty June’s hanky had been replaced by a thick pad to staunch the blood which still dribbled from the spaces where his two front teeth had been.

I sidled over to see.

‘Eddie, can I have a go at your bike?’

Eddie glared at me over the white pad.

I opened my bag of lollies and presented it to him.

‘Want a jube?’

As 2020 draws to a close, I think about all the unexpected consequences of this unpredictable year – the unpleasant ones and the occasional silver lining that peeped through. Happy Christmas and I do hope for a better year ahead
for us all.

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