Slipping down the side of the house like two mice, nervously looking around on and off to make sure no-one had seen us, Julian and I were on a mission. At the front of the structure, which was on a slopping block, there was a door that led to a vast area under the lounge-room floor. It was about five feet high, dark as coal and scattered around, all the brick pylons that supported the house. Julian flicked on a torch and we made our way in over the cold earth and moist atmosphere of this cave like hollow. At the centre of this area was a small room created by brick walls on three sides rather than the pylons. Obviously there for some structural reason, it created a nook, perfect for a hideaway.
Julian gestured to be quiet as we entered and I couldn’t believe what was there. He had dragged a few old car seats and a small box table and magazines and all the implements of our covert deception, all placed neatly and particularly.
‘Welcome to the cave,’ he whispered, with the broadest smile.
I grinned from ear to ear in anticipation of our mission and how planned it had been. On the table were a small packet of cigarettes and a box of matches, Julian quickly offered me one and we both sat there, about to light up.
‘Are you sure she doesn’t know?’ I asked nervously.
Julian began to chuckle. ‘You’ve got to be joking, Mum doesn’t know anything. She wouldn’t have a clue what goes on around here.
Julian had two brothers and one sister, who kept their poor mum busy, to say the least. Their mum was a nervous kind of person and I always remember being there at 5pm, just before I went home. She would get in her car and drive down to the local pub to buy herself one bottle of beer. That seemed to be her daily salvation, her one means of survival, being the mum of four very demanding kids.
Julian’s youngest brother had a pet python, completely harmless and it did help to keep the mice away, but almost daily their mum would discover the snake all curled up in a wardrobe of some warm spot, and it would scare the hell out of her. Her performances were so entertaining Brett, the brother, would strategically place Teddy the snake, just where his mum would come across the giant. The ensuing screams were worth the trouble and often Margaret, his mum, would decide to take an early trip to the pub.
So, Julian and I lit up and were puffing away, the joy not in the acrid smoke but the fact it was illicit, and even more so we were getting away with it. As we smoked that ethereal blue smoke wafted upward, through the floorboard cracks and into the lounge-room, where Margaret was ironing tomorrow’s clothes and watching television.
She looked down with a knowing smile and mumbled ‘Bloody kids,’ and continued ironing, dreaming of that five o’clock chime.
Tony DeLorger © 2016