Beds

Tawhiri stood with his legs over his son’s, a beer in his glass and beer in his mouth.

Maui pulled a box out from under the bed and handed it to his father. “I get Roha’s bed, Daddy. I get her bed don’t I?”

“You get her bed,” said Tawhiri. “Keep going.”

Maui went back under the bed and used his arms and legs to push everything out into the open.

Tawhiri left him too it. He went out the front door and put his glass down on the top of the fence. He picked up the small rock by the porch, white with old chalk, and went into the driveway. His ex-wife had taken the car so the driveway was free. Tawhiri walked to the chalked squares. It hadn’t rained for months but the chalk lines were still faded. He threw the rock.

Three, he thought. And then he made himself say it. “Three.”

Tawhiri jumped and landed on one foot in the first square. He went forward, then into the second square and then into the fourth square, careful not to put his foot in the third. When he got to the eighth square he didn’t turn back. He continued walking and went back to the porch.

“What are you doing?” Maui said.

“Did you like the taste?” Tawhiri asked.

“No,” Maui said. His mouth was scrunched up.

Tawhiri took the empty glass from him.

“Go finish your sister’s room.”

“It is finished.”

“Go finish it and you can have your own bottle.”

Maui went inside.

Tawhiri rubbed his hand through his jet-black hair. He went inside and poured himself another drink, and then he caught his breath and poured another.

Tawhiri went to check on the boy. Dolls were all over the floor in his daughter’s room. Old school books were open and clothes had gathered dust that floated at his shins. They didn’t fit his daughter anymore. A photo in a frame hit his shoe. Maui loaded draws into rubbish bags and didn’t look twice at the contents.

“Hey!” said Tawhiri.

Maui wiped his head. “Can I have that drink now?”

“Why do you just throw her stuff around like it’s nothing?”

“It’s crap.”

“It’s not crap. She used to wear this.”

“But now she doesn’t.”

“Other people might have wanted it, Maui.”

Maui looked up at his father. “Do you want it?”

“No.” Tawhiri rubbed his eyes. “It’s crap.”

Maui carried on cleaning his sister’s room out.

Tawhiri picked up the bags full of Roha’s old things, one in each hand, and left the room. He wanted to throw them as far as he could. All the way to Christchurch if he could. He pushed the front door open with his knee and walked outside. He crossed over the chalked squares and dumped the rubbish bags, one on top of the other, in the trash. He picked up the chalked-up rock and threw it hard. It bounced across the cement and clipped the wood of the lower porch.

“You never were good at that game.”

Tawhiri turned.

“Hoppit. Hoppsit. What’s it?” Kiri clicked down the driveway in her heels. Her head was in her phone, but with her short haircut he could see her lipstick matched her handbag.

“It’s Hopscotch.” Tawhiri turned away.

“No thanks. I don’t drink,” she said to her phone.

“Come in,” Tawhiri said. He was already walking away from her.

“You need a haircut,” Kiri said.

“I need someone to cut it.” He left the front door open for her and went to inform Maui that his mother had arrived.

“Looks like I missed one,” Tawhiri said. He picked up an old pink fairy doll with a rip down its left wing.

The front door closing sounded through the house.

“I’ll bin that for you.” Maui snatched the fairy. He went to leave his sister’s room but Tawhiri stopped him.

“At least say hello to her. She won’t be here long.”

“Ok,” said the Maui. He rubbed his elbow to get rid of the dirt from the floor.

“Then why were you running away?” asked Tawhiri.

“I wasn’t.”

Kiri greeted Maui with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She made a big deal. She much preferred the ‘fun aunt’ job to the ‘mother’ job.

“How’s your girlfriend?” Kiri asked her son. “Sophie, from class?”

Maui blushed.

“That good, eh? So.” Kiri looked up at Tawhiri. “Does my big boy finally get his sister’s room?”

“Go hang out in your own room for a bit, Maui.”

“The drink Daddy?”

“I’ll bring you that drink I promised.”

“You mean the beer, Daddy?” Maui smiled up at his mother.

Kiri frowned at the Tawhiri.

Tawhiri looked from Kiri to Maui. And then he diverted his gaze to the fairy in the Maui’s hand. “Go throw that thing out,” he said. “And grab some duct tape from the garage. Your sister’s bed needs fixing.”

“But I need the tape,” said Maui.

“For what?”

“To fix my boots.”

“No. Use it on the bed.”

“But I need it.”

“Do you want to sleep on your boots?”

Maui didn’t respond. He squished the fairy in his hands.

“Use it on the bed,” said Tawhiri.

Maui went out the door.

“He hasn’t seen you in a long time,” Tawhiri said.

Kiri shrugged. “That’ll change I’m sure.”

He watched her pull out her lipstick and her little mirror and readjust her mouth.

“I’m sure,” said Tawhiri. He looked at his daughter’s empty room before his gaze fell to the kitchen floor. “I can’t believe Roha’s gone.”

Kiri shrugged again, careful not to move her head as her brush worked. “She’s only gone to Christchurch.”

Tawhiri shook his head. “Very touching. She’s meant to be my little girl.”

“Well at least I’m a rock,” said Kiri.

“Rocks are softer,” said Tawhiri.

“Listen. I came for the bed,” said Kiri. She looked at him.

Tawhiri turned away and grabbed a cold Tui from the fridge.

“I guess you met someone,” he said.

“Isn’t that a bit inappropriate?” Kiri said.

Tawhiri drank his beer.

“Anyway. It’s not like you need the king size, Tawhiri.”

Tawhiri drink some more beer.

“It’s just practical, Tawhiri.”

“Yes. For you.”

“And it’s nothing for you.”

“It’s my bed.”

“It’s our bed.”

“It was our bed.” Tawhiri looked away and into his daughter’s old room.

“And you’re the one without a partner, right?” Kiri continued. She was texting on her phone. “So. The bed?”

“You can’t take my bed, Kiri. You have your own.”

“It’s Kiriana now.”

“Why?”

“Spud thinks it’s more mature.”

Tawhiri shook his head. “It makes you sound older.” He opened the cabinet and pulled the whiskey down.

“We’re not young anymore.”

“I’m sorry,” Tawhiri said. And then he said “What did you say his name was?”

Maui came inside with the duct tape. “There’s only a little bit left.” He held up the roll.

Tawhiri nodded. “Move the mattress and use it on the bottom rung of the bed frame. And do a good job or you’ll fall through.”

Maui went into his sister’s room.

Kiri watched Tawhiri sink the whiskey. “We’ll give you Spud’s single.”

“Why would I want to sleep where Spud and his potatoes have been?” Tawhiri looked into his empty glass.

“Then trade beds with Maui. He’s got a single, right?” She was looking at her phone again.

“You can’t have the bed, Kiri.”

Maui came into the kitchen. “There’s a truck in the driveway,” he said.

Tawhiri looked at his ex-wife and put the glass down. “What?”

Maui scampered into his room and closed the door.

There was a knock on the front door.

“Spud, get in here,” said Kiri.

Spud opened the front door. “What’s taking so long?” he said.

“We’re just negotiating,” said Kiri.

“Hello Big Man,” smiled Spud. He fiddled with his belt of tools. “Aww, sick moko!”

Tawhiri raised his eyebrows at Kiri.

Kiri looked at the ground.

Maui walked out of his own room with two full bags. He went outside.

“Can we take the bed now?” said Kiri.

Tawhiri rubbed his head. And then he pointed into his room.

Spud started pulling at his tools.

“Just the mattress,” said Tawhiri.

“What about the frame?” Spud looked at Tawhiri.

“You don’t want it,” Tawhiri grinned. “It’s had a lot of weight on it.”

“Nah it’ll be sweet,” said Spud. He moved into Tawhiri’s room.

“Leave the fucking frame,” Tawhiri said.

Spud looked him.

“Take the mattress,” said Kiri. “And be quick.”

Kiri and Spud picked up the mattress and waited for Tawhiri to move out of the doorway. When he moved they carried it to the front door.

Tawhiri folded his arms. He watched them through the window as they moved towards the van. He watched Maui help them.

Tawhiri rubbed his head. He felt his arm shaking. He poured himself another drink and went into his daughter’s old room. He looked at the unused hooks that were nailed into the wall and then he looked down to the trash where Roha’s photos were dumped. He shook his head and downed his drink. He put the glass down and grabbed the role of duct tape off the floor and saw it was used up. He looked at the bottom rung of the bed frame and saw it was still broken. Tawhiri threw the used roll of duct tape at the wall.

“Screw your damn boots,” he said. He turned around and left the room and then he shoved the door to Maui’s room wide open.

The curtains were closed. He stumbled forward in the dark until his knees hit something.

It was Maui’s bed. Tucked in the duvet he saw Roha’s fairy. It had duct tape where the wing had ripped.

Tawhiri looked at it. And then he turned around and closed the door before Maui came back inside.

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