A flashback of Australian childhood, a personal account during Christmas holidays in the early sixties, and an excerpt from my fictionalized autobiography ‘Harold Be Thy Name’.
That morning Josh and Paul, the kid from next door, had been to the back block, a parcel of vacant land that adjoined both of their homes. They had managed to fill an old tattered leather briefcase with Christmas beetles; large golden beetles that were in great abundance at that time of year. They happily sat in the dirt, digging their hands into the writhing mass, searching for the finest, biggest most golden specimen.
The poor creatures were easy prey. They swarmed around the gum trees in their hundreds and could be picked off the curling grey bark of the trunks without difficulty.
‘Orrh, look at this one!’ said Paul excitedly, pulling a huge beetle from the mass. The creature tried desperately to escape, its wings a blur. Paul held it to his face and felt the tiny breeze that it created and Josh giggled with delight, taking another and doing the same. Having been momentarily distracted, the boys hadn’t noticed the briefcase had fallen on its side and the beetles were now crawling out onto their arms and legs.
‘That feels really weird,’ chuckled Josh, gently removing their sharp little clawed legs from his arm, one by one. After carefully removing them, the beetles began to take flight, until, in a cloud of thrashing wings, they all made their escape. The boys edged back and watched the mass exodus with broad smiles and wonder in their eyes. Life itself was exhilarating, in every form, and with every breath. Each discovery and experience seemed to be uplifting, and to further strengthen their own essence, and purpose. They, as most of us discover sooner or later, would come to realise that ’youth is its own reward.’ Youth is simply too busy experiencing itself, unable to conceive of the freedom and perfection of its own state.
Paul was a little younger than Josh and much thinner, in fact he was downright skinny. His spindly legs and knobby knees were quite a sight. He came from a large family, with two brothers and two sisters, Paul being the second eldest. They were a close and strongly independent family, but because of their sheer number, they didn’t have a great deal of spare money. Clothes particularly, were passed down through the ranks until they were no
more, or at least became another functional item, a rag or whatever.
Paul nearly always wore the same play clothes, hand-me-down sand-shoes with holes in the sides, large Bombay-bloomer type shorts that hung down below his knees, with an old short sleeved shirt over the top. It’s buttons were nearly all different. His poor Mum had replaced them so often, the cotton itself held the garment together. Around his waist he wore a thin leather belt which originally came from an old handyman’s tool pouch. Paul had driven a nail through it to make a hole for the buckle, in order to fit his tiny waist. The rest of its length hung down about a foot below.
Paul’s face was full of freckles and his sun bleached blonde hair was straight with a fringe that hung half way down his forehead. He was the sort of kid that always had a runny nose and stuck his tongue out of the corner of his mouth when he was concentrating. All in all Paul was a bit of a character, and although at times he could be a pest, he and Josh got on well enough.
It was about noon when Helen, Josh’s mum, called him in for lunch.
‘See ya later then?’ asked Josh, heading for the back gate.
‘Nar! I promised Dad I’d do some chores this arvo!’
‘Maybe after that, see ya!’ The boys parted company.
Tony DeLorger © 2017