Hankering to chew on the Brothers Groth’s newest scribblings? Of course you are. Here’s a special draft excerpt of the delicious young adult work soon to do the publishing rounds:
Skye lay stretched out, the warm bath enfolding her like a bandage. The tub was her place of reflection. She would submerge in its emollient cloak when she needed to slow down, breathe, cleanse the mind and make a little more sense of the world. Oftentimes – always the most important times – her grandmother, Tuula, would provide a sounding board for her meditations. Such was the circumstance today. The seventy-three year old “firebreather” (as Skye’s grandfather had affectionately dubbed her) sat cross-legged on the wooden lid of the toilet seat. In her left hand was the ever-present lit cigarette. She held it close to the slipstream of air being sucked up into the ceiling by the exhaust fan, and away from the aged and highly flammable shower curtain stretched across the moderate length of the tub.
“He’s going away,” said Skye, squeezing a washcloth over her neck.
Tuula blew smoke from the corner of her mouth and frowned. “Clayton is going away?”
“Where? When is he going?”
“He’s off to the States. Plane leaves Wednesday.”
“You never talked about this, lapsi?”
“It only just happened. He sent me some texts before I got in the bath.” Skye threw the cloth. It hit the tiles below the showerhead, fell between her propped feet with a plop. “After he set that world record, Blythe and her army of droids or zombies or whatever the hell she has working for her got real busy making calls and pulling favours and brown-nosing and the rest of it. He’s going to be doing the rounds of the talkshows, radio and TV. Then he’s going to some specialist training facility in Colorado for a while.”
“Ten weeks all up.”
“And what flight will you be catching?”
Tuula held her hands up. “Don’t laugh – this can be the truth! You have money you have saved from your job. I can give you the rest.”
“Not gonna happen, Mummu. This is strictly a ‘Team Drum’ affair.”
“What? Team Dumb?”
“Team Drum. You know, Clayton, Blythe, Len, Clayton’s coach Mr Dwyer. And the undead that Blythe hand-picks for these sorts of things.”
“Team Drum, Team Drum…Perkele.” Tuula reached behind her and grasped the ashtray sitting on the cistern. She tapped ash and cleared her throat. “Team Drum is the shit!”
Skye – fully reclined, her lips tickling the water’s veneer – burst into laughter, sending a streak of bubbles skimming toward her knees.
“Mummu, it’s just shit, not the shit. The shit means it’s great.”
“Great? Shit is great?”
“No, shit is bad; the shit is great.”
Tuula muttered several incredulous phrases in her native Finnish tongue, took a long drag on her cigarette and emptied the smoke via her nostrils. “And ‘sick’…You were telling me last week this also means great.”
“Shit…Sick…How did this happen?”
‘I don’t know. Some kids somewhere started using them that way…And they stuck.”
“Ya, kids.” The woman who had raised Skye for three quarters of her sixteen years scratched the part in her greying blonde bob then patted the porcelain bowl providing her seat. “They turn English into a vessa!”
Skye laughed again, sending a second stream of bubbles across the water. Tuula, eager to leave behind the linguistic crimes of today’s youth, tacked back to the news of the day.
“Well, you will have the no worries with Clayton coming back to you. He is not a devil like his Äiti. He isa good boy. A very good boy. The two of you are in love.”
Skye relaxed her neck, allowing her head to list and her left earlobe to brush the water. Her feelings dived and darted and tried to hide in the shoals within her. By the time she’d drawn words from them, Tuula was lighting a second smoke.
“When he’s with me, it feels like we’re good. Nobody can get between us. But when we’re apart…it’s like…I don’t know. It’s like one of his races: one minute I’m beside him, the next he’s gone. I’m caught in his backwash. I can’t see. Others move ahead of me, trying to chase him down. Others who aren’t content to just be beside him.”
Tuula produced a long grumble from the back of her throat. “Ah, you not only draw pictures on paper, lapsi. You draw them in my mind.” She gave the ashtray in her hand a little shake. “I will help you see. Did I ever tell you about your isoisä and the fortune-teller?”
“Yes, of course Mummu.”
“Yes, I’ve heard the story about Grandpa and the card reader. Many times.”
“How many times?”
Skye laid the washcloth over her eyes. “Fourteen.”
“Ha…Not nearly enough!”
Tuula cleared her throat.
“Your isoisä had fallen in love with me. We had met on a tram in Fortitude Valley – he was very handsome in his uniform and his slouch hat. He gave up his seat for me and we began talking. My English wasn’t great, but he was very patient. He wasn’t like other people who would frown and roll their eyes and treat you like paska. He listened with care. He asked to learn some Finnish; how to say: “You are beautiful”…Well, that’s what he wanted me to translate. I actually taught him to say “I look like a dog’s behind”. I didn’t correct him until many weeks later. Anyway, by the time we reached Milton, he had asked for my hand in marriage. I said I would like to go to a movie cinema first. We went and saw ‘South Pacific’ and during the song ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair’, he gave me a kiss on the cheek. That was the first time I thought he could be my armas.”
Tuula paused to smoke. Skye took a breath. Goosebumps populated her pruney skin; a condition that had nothing to do with the cooling bath water. Fourteen times she’d been gifted the recount of her grandparents’ courtship – fourteen times her heart had raced like a hamster in a wheel. And if the future delivered fourteen more – hell, fourteen hundred more – that giddy feeling would accompany with Mummu’s words, every time.
“We had known each other for two months when he asked me again to marry. I didn’t want to go to a movie cinema this time. I didn’t want to do anything except say ‘yes’. But I was confused. Two months was not long. How could I be very sure he wasn’t a kusipää? I wanted a little information, a little guidance. I told your isoisä this and he said he knew a fortune-teller who could give me the peace of the mind. I didn’t think it was true, but I went along anyway because he was paying. The reader was a fat Australian woman; her name, if my mind is working properly, was Beryl. She told me the man I was seeing was a ‘top bloke’; he would make a ‘ripper of a hubby’ and would never ‘shoot through’. He would forever be ‘dinky-di’ to me. I didn’t understand anything this Beryl said, but I knew from her face and from the way she said the words. She thought your Grandpa was a very good man.”
Tuula flicked ash into the tray. Skye sat up and opened the shower curtain a crack, enough to spy her narrator. Knowing what was to come, she sensed the giggles rising in her chest.
“Then I had a strange thought – I know Beryl! I searched my mind for when and where I had met this fat woman. It was two weeks before, on the tour your grandfather gave me of his barracks. She had been serving food to the soldiers in the messy hall.”
“Mess. Mess hall.”
“Ay…whatever,” replied Tuula, waving her hand. “The important point is I had seen Fat Beryl before…And she was no fortune-teller. So, I asked her if your isoisä had paid the fee: she said ‘My oath’, which I took to mean ‘Yes’. Then I asked her what other payment she had received. Fat Beryl said she didn’t know what I was talking about, but I kept asking until she became red in the face and lowered her eyes. It turned out your isoisä was the cheeky comedian. He had paid Fat Beryl to pretend to be a reader and to say nice things about him! Can you believe it?”
“I’ve never heard of such a thing, Mummu.”
“It is true! And when I confront your Grandpa, he laughed and said it was only a joke. He said he was sorry if I had been embarrassed. I told him I wasn’t the one spending all my money on Fat Beryl. He laughed again and said he knew a man with a crystal ball who could give me proper information. And that’s when I decided I must marry your isoisä…Before he became a penniless, kusipää clown.” Tuula rose, stubbed out her cigarette. “That is the end…Now I am going to go heat up some kesäkeitto. You would like a bowl?”
“Mummu, wait!” Skye drummed her fingernails on the rim of the tub. “Remember what you said at the beginning? You said this would help me see.”
Tuula narrowed her eyes and placed her free hand on her hip. “Maybe it’s not that you can’t see, lapsi. Maybe you just need to open your eyes.” Turning on her heel and exiting the bathroom, she added: “Anyway, it is not for me to tell you everything like a television show! My job is to tell the stories! Stories that are the shit!”