On Saturday morning I take my book and climb up to sit in the tree house dad built for us. It’s not a proper tree house with a roof, just a slab of wood on wooden stilts over a sandpit. I think he wanted to build it up more and give it a roof, but he gave up when Mum started to get sick. There are two thin wooden railings around the outside of the slab to stop you falling off, but I’m so heavy now I don’t think they’d hold me.
When I stand up on the wooden platform, my head is in the branches of the almond tree. The almonds grow in big furry green husks. They fall onto the tree house and crack open because of the heat. Inside the husk is stringy pale yellow flesh and a little dip in the very middle where the almond grows. You’re not supposed to break open the husks until they’re brown, because that’s when the almonds are hard and dry and ready to eat. But the ones in our tree always fall off the branches when they’re still green.
I kick away the old broken husks to make a space to lie down. When I lie on my back I can see up through the leaves and the pink-white flowers into the sky. It’s so hot, but the grass in the backyard is green and lush because of all the storms. There’s almost one a day this time of year.
I open my book, but I can hear something rustling around in the sand pit. I wriggle over to the edge of the platform, stick my head under the lower railing and bend my neck so I can see underneath. The cat is digging a hole, his short tail sticking straight up in the air. His name is Frank and he was Mum’s. We don’t take very good care of him anymore and he’s gone half-feral. Ally’s supposed to feed him but she always forgets. He’s black and white and splotchy, almost as big as a dog.
Into the hole he does a long, brown shit. When he’s finished he covers it up with sand and stalks away. My eyes bulge from hanging upside down. Ally and me used to go in the sand pit a lot when we were younger. We’d bring jugs of water out from the kitchen and mix up mud pies or make castles. I can’t remember when we stopped. Probably when the cat started shitting in it. I crawl back to my spot and open up my book again.
I hear a loud miaow and more rustling. Over by the yard fence is a thick patch of bushes. I crawl over to the side again and look down. The bushes are moving. A different cat comes out and walks over to Frank. The other cat is much smaller and light brown with a white nose. When Frank goes over to the brown cat, it lies down flat on its tummy with its paws out in front. Then Frank gets on top of the brown cat and arches his back up.
Frank starts to push against the brown cat. The brown cat lies there and looks bored. Frank yowls and I’m surprised Ally hasn’t come outside to see what’s going on. Frank thrusts into the brown cat a few times and then lets it go. The brown cat runs back into the bushes. Frank sits up like a kangaroo and starts licking his tummy. His thing is sticking out like a long white pin. There’s something dark all over it. He starts licking it off. I hiss at him. He looks up at me and then gets down on four legs and starts walking towards the house.
I lie back down and stare up at the tree. My undies feel wet. I put my hand down there and touch my bits outside my undies and when I pull my hand out there’s something warm and sticky on my fingers. I smell it. It smells like Ally, and Mum, and the senior toilets at school. I put my hand back down under my undies and there’s something damp sticking up hard down there. I rub my fingers over it. It feels good when I do it, but it hurts and tickles and scratches as well.
I pull my hand away and sit up. I look up at the house. Dad and Pat usually take Saturdays off. I don’t know if Pat’s in the house or in the cottage, but I don’t want either of them to walk out and see. And I don’t want Ally to see. I turn my back to the house and stay sitting up so that I’m looking at the cane fields. The sky is blue all the way to the ridge, where there’s a few clouds stuck around the edges of the sky.
I stick my hand back down under my shorts. I try rubbing the hard bit with my palm but it doesn’t feel good. I have a sick feeling in my stomach. My heart’s going fast. I think about Ally and Pat when I saw them through the cottage window. About Pat behind Ally, his fingers gripping her bottom so that the skin folded into his palms. About Ally’s boobs rocking back and forth as he pushed his thing into her.
I use two fingers and rub gently, then press harder. It feels good. I keep rubbing. It feels like I’m going to pee, like there’s a big wave of liquid building inside me. So I keep rubbing and then my stomach muscles tense up and my body curls over and I shake and there’s a flood of wet stuff in my undies and I feel tingly all the way to the ends of my fingers. When I blink there’s tears in my eyes.
I sit back and dry my fingers on my shorts. A warm breeze blows my sticky hair up off my face. I lie down and open my book up and stare at the words and try not to cry.
Miranda Debeljakovic is a writer from Fremantle, via Canberra, who now lives in Brisbane. Her fiction has been shortlisted for numerous prizes, and published in Voiceworks, Eyebag, and Award Winning Australian Writing 2014.