Expendable Goods

By William Field

In my old house, there is a wedge — a gap in the concrete of our driveway. Like a small trench.

On my scooter, I would spend the day jumping the gap over and over. Mum would pester Dad to

have it filled, but when they both noticed my newfound hobby the matter was dropped. It was a

patchwork driveway. Some of it was smooth and some of it was rocky and bumpy, it made me

jitter on the run up, and I was scared it would give me bad knees like Grandad.

 

Mum and Dad are sitting together on the front porch watching me. Mum looks very cool — she

still does to this day, she knew of current trends but never followed them slavishly. Her hair is

short around this time and it suits her; she is smoking a cigarette.

   “Slow down.”

   I ignore her.

   “Let him be,” my Dad says, and Mum turns her head towards him.

   “He’ll remember this forever,” he continues.

   I start to prepare myself for another jump, and then I gain speed quickly. Soon after, my front

wheel lodges itself in the gap and the blood drips from my elbows after I fall. “Fuck!” I yell.

   Aside from that I was quiet, the way that children are when they hurt themselves, as if

they’re trying to comprehend it all, and you see their face slowly turn. Then I start to wail, and

Mum is soon upon me. She kneels down so we were face to face. Her thumbs are on the corners

of my eyes and we hold that gaze, and I stop screaming instantly. She gets off her knees and

nurses me to the house.

   “Don’t swear,” my Dad says as we pass him. He is still on the porch, unmoved. “They are

empty words. People will be more willing to listen to what you have to say if you don’t swear.”

   Mum flicks her cigarette at his feet and softly pushes me inside.

 

Dad would drive me to my games every Saturday. But I don’t think he cared for football. He

would show support clumsily. When everyone was quiet he would cheer. When people clapped

he would do so seconds later — much too late, and the lone applause would cut through the

ambience of young boys tussling; to this day I don’t enjoy second hand embarrassment. He

never understood the flow of the game. To him, there was no event more momentous than the

ball being at my feet. I could hear him every time, it threw me off.

 

After school me and my friend Patrick go to the mall. The high school students are there. Some

of them look at us, I thought it was strange how they did that. Not a passing recognition, no,

more like — I can’t explain it. I only understood when I got older. We skip away across the food

court. It is a vapid place with fake marble. We go to the $2 dollar store that changed its name

every couple of months; the cashier doesn’t notice us when we enter. All the items are

horrendously expendable, and arranged without thought. We play around in the back of the store,

where the swords were. We’re the only ones in the store besides someone else. She’s this small

asian lady with a purple tracksuit; she keeps bringing things to the counter and says “How

much?” in a real funny voice. When we first walk into the store I see her walking down the aisle,

no doubt coming back from there. Coming back from asking “How much?” Meanwhile me and

Patrick are having a duel. It never gets out of hand but it’s serious business.

   “How much?” I remember hearing, but I’m too focused to pay it thought.

   “Four fifty.”

I’m winning, and I should’ve won by now, but Patrick has a “force field”. I get fed up and ditch

the sword on the ground. Then I see it. A laser pointer — heaps of them in a small cardboard

box. It feels heavy in my hand, and Patrick stares at it approvingly. I make my way to the

counter. The cashier is watching something on his phone, and he looks up when he hears the

laser pointer land on the table.

   “That will be three ninety-nine.”

   I proudly present the coins, and in doing so I hear a shrill voice behind me.

   “How much?”

He scans the laser pointer quickly, and shoves it right back to me. It rolls off the counter and I

have to pick it off the floor. My gaze never rises, and I can hear him as me and Patrick leave. “I

told you that already.”

    “But you don’t show the price.”

   “If you’re not going to buy something then you can leave the store you stupid chink.”

   Looking back, it was barbarous, even though I didn’t know what it meant, and I was just glad

he didn’t mind us playing with the swords.

 

We point it at everything on the way back. The people walking in front of us, the distant

beckoning tree pummeled by the wind, which makes the embered trunk glow; nothing was safe

when our imagination ran. Patrick tracks a moving car with one eye closed, and makes a noise.

    “Booosh!”

The explosion is huge.

The barking dog behind the wire fence. It’s eyes are bulging, and I can see the wet roof of its

mouth.

    “Bzzzsssh.”

    Incinerated instantly.

 

After dinner I spend some time playing with it in my room. Leaning out the window, I marvel at

how far it travels. I point it at a house in the valley, down from where I am. The little red dot

amidst the distant black makes me feel mighty. With precision, I run the pointer along the

property and settle it at a window and start doing figure eights, but mostly I’m just pointing. The

window lights up and I stop. After a while it turns off and I start pointing again; I am

untouchable. The light turns on again and a man appears. He is wearing a dressing gown and he

has a drink in his hand, but other than that I can’t make out much. I point at his chest for a bit

and then I point it at his face. He shields his eyes and walks away. The lights go off afterward so

I keep at it. The light turns on and I see him once more. He stands there and I point at his face

again. He finishes his drink in front of me, walks out of sight, and the light turns off.

   The wind got worse that night, and all the trees below faltered.

 

The next morning I hear an argument in the kitchen. I try not to pay attention, but I hear a pan

clatter on the ground. I pack my bag with my books and my laser pointer, and then I walk into

the kitchen. Dad is sitting on a chair and Mum is leaning against the kitchen bench, they both

stop and stare at me. My Dad looks at his feet and moves them a little as I walk past him to grab

a muesli bar.

   “Don’t you want a proper breakfast, before you leave?” he says. I don't answer. “You want a

proper breakfast before school,” he continues.

   I look at him for a while and then I look at Mum. She is wiping the tears from her eyes. She

tries to pull out a cigarette but she drops the packet.

 

Soon after me and Mum walk out the front door. I am much ahead of her being eager to leave,

but I stop at the sight. Mum does too shortly after. The wing mirrors of our car are smashed off,

coupled with a swastika drawn on the hood in marker pen. Mum goes back in, and comes out

with a cloth and a bucket of soapy water. I remember how she scrubbed the car. She has the

cloth in both hands like she is swabbing the decks, muttering while she does so. It wasn’t

coming off but she’s scrubbing intensely as if it is. My Dad walks over to her and mutters

something too — I can’t hear anything, I don’t even realise he was there. All my life had been

variants of skipping and running, but until that morning the total present had never been so

much more. I see the days.

   “You drive him then,” she says, and she hurls the car keys at his face. She walks away and

starts crying again, before sitting down on the driveway with her knees up, and her hands

wrapped around them. Nothing else happens for a while. Dad then looks at me, flicks his head

towards the car and gets inside, I slowly follow. Mum starts to laugh.

   “You’re messed up. You’re messed up in the head, you know that right?” cigarette in

between the accusing fingers.

 

I was in the passenger seat with my head out of the window.

   “Tell me if there’s any cars on your side, I’ve got mine” he says.

   The drive is long and that morning it felt longer. People honk and jeer at us as they drive

past, as Dad whips his head in all directions like a security camera. When we arrive, neither of

us leave the car for a while; I am early. I look at the rear view mirror. Dad stares forward, saying

nothing, and his eyes occasionally jerk side to side as if he is reading a book. His right brow is

cut, and blood dilutes the tears as he wipes his face.

   “Have a good day at school,” he says.

 

That weekend, we played at home. Home being the local park. The game is drawing to a close,

the ball is passed to me but my options are limited before I even receive it. I carry it forward and

I can hear him. I pass it forward and promptly receive it again. The other team’s press is very

fast and I can still hear him. I turn to pass it back to the keeper, but I hit the ground before we

even make eye contact.

“You saw that!” Dad appeals, “How’s he getting away with that!”

No one else is saying anything, it was a good tackle. I pick myself up with the dirt in my eye;

someone tells Dad to shut up and let me focus.

 

That was a lapse I swear, I’m actually quite good. I’m in my second year of high school now,

and I might play for the 1st XI. Patrick’s Dad, Cliff, drives me to the games because Mum’s too

busy with work. In the car ride back, he tells me exactly what I did wrong, and the things that I

did right. I appreciate it alot. We talk about how bad the other team was, and if there was a good

player, we talk about what he’s doing that I’m not. I don’t speak to Patrick anymore, and he

stopped playing a while ago. That’s why I didn’t want Mum to ask Cliff, because I thought it’d

be awkward though in reality it’s anything but. Every second Wednesday I take a long train ride

as Dad lives very far away, but to do that I have to take a bus to the station from school first. I

don’t complain about the distance, because if I do he will tell me the place is cheap — as if he’s

defending himself. One time the train was heavily delayed, so I had plenty of leisure. I could’ve

done anything that day, but that day I decided to get a haircut. I didn’t even know I wanted one

so badly until I walked into the barber. It was a fancy place but also subdued; it didn’t flaunt its

success and the place looked inviting, rather than trendy. It was cut by a foreign man. He didn’t

want to talk and neither did I. I felt his fingers run along my scalp and a tug in the roots of my

hair. I closed my eyes and tried to relish the feeling, and listened to his big scissors scrape away.

I started to think about the train ride. I don’t watch anything on the train, I don’t listen to

anything either. I stare out the window and watch the people. The scenery changes and so do

they, and then it changes back again. Some look tired. They smoke like Mum, and cough out the

wisp of June as they walk.

William was born to a Japanese mother and an English father in Leicester, his parents moved to New Zealand soon after. William is currently studying at Victoria University.