An entry in the Crocodile Prize
PNG Government Award for Short Stories
I do not know how I stumbled along. I had gotten my head into a lot of huge black trash cans already; trash cans so full of rubbish and stinking of rotten food, dead fish and other unidentifiable matter.
But I didn’t mind. I had a purpose in sticking my head down trash cans. I’d been at it for a full eight hours I noted, glancing at my blue plastic-banded watch.
After sticking my head down one more large trash can, this time a red one which had once been a fuel drum, I took to hitching rides from passing vehicles.
I flagged down a lot of cars, but all the drivers did was slow down and hurl mouthfuls of foul words at me before speeding away. The last one had discharged spittle all over me.
I looked down at my orange and yellow tee-shirt and frowned at the little red dots on the front. Buai spit.
I decided against flagging down any more cars. The stretch of highway towards the Simbu-Jiwaka border was deserted. The sky was blue hued and beautifully clear. But I was too hot to really appreciate the beauty.
I was sweating a lot; little rivulets crept down my back and face. My tee-shirt stuck to my skin. My feet constantly slid out of my white rubber slippers. I scanned the black asphalt to the far distance seeking a blob of movement, anything at all. But there was nothing; just more black asphalt bordered by green kunai.
I’d run away from home because my mother had moved in with a new man two weeks ago and my father then decided to find a new girlfriend. And by girl, I mean a girl. She was 16or so, and I am 15.
So, I decided to ditch school for a couple of weeks and visit my aunt in Mt Hagen. But I got pickpocketed as I was trying to board a public motor vehicle at the Kundiawa bus station. When the busboi, and I, discovered I had no fare I was forced off the bus at Kerowagi Bridge.
I had then walked slowly along the highway to where I now fund myself.
I knew my papa would be soon be after me. I was on the radio, a police search was underway. My papa was the type of man who always got his way and I knew he’d soon find me.
I could picture him now, wearing his black suit and a mismatched dusty-pink tie which I picked out for him in a used clothing store at Kundiawa. I could picture him now, frowning and pacing back and forth, his black laptop case in one hand and his head closely shaved. His face a nice shade of brown, exactly like mine.
But I soon lost the image of him in my head. I was so hot, losing concentration. I wished the kunai on the side of the road would turn into a great green carpet so I could stretch out on it and rest.
My army-green backpack had turned heavy. Even though, I hated to admit it, it contained almost nothing. I had shoved a pair of black skinny-jeans and a white sleeveless tee-shirt with the words “Kill Me” in red chiller font as well as three underpants. I had also my favourite, pink ballpoint pens.
I was contemplating dumping my few belongings and carrying on when I spotted it.
It was a car painted a hot orange colour coming from the direction I had walked from. I jumped up and down waving, despite my promise not to flag down any more cars.
The car came closer. I squinted hard and I realised it was papa’s Toyota Corolla GL1. It was a different colour. The colour I had begged papa to have it painted. My waving hand froze in the air and stayed there for a while.
Papa pulled up.
“Hazel,” he said in his always gentle voice.
“Papa,” I replied shakily.
“I’m so glad I found you. Get in,” he said
“I’m sorry dad! I’m glad you found me too!” I said, my lips quivering.
“I love you,” papa said as I got into the car. Then he hugged me tight.
I nodded and pretended something was in my eye as I rubbed it.
Papa turned the car around and we headed for Kundiawa. It was silent for a while.
“I got rid of the teen,” dad said. “I promise no more teens. I’ll just find you a good mama, but not for a while yet.”
“No way, dad!” I beamed. “But one thing, papa, my favourite colour is on your car?”
Papa just laughed his fake evil laugh and then poked me in the stomach and I squealed. I smiled contently as we continued home.