Hi, my name’s Jarryd and I’m thirteen and this is my third My Life Story Book. I live in a giant hole on the way to the middle of Australia. They call it the Super Pit. This country is really important in Australian history, that’s what they taught us when I went to school. There’s gold and it makes heaps of people rich. They come from all over the joint to work here, but not many stick around. People reckon it’s a shithole, but they don’t know what they’re talking about. I’ve dreamt about being a miner. On Friday nights they swarm the pubs and drink in their dirt-stained fluros. On Sunday mornings they eat big breakfasts in the cafes wearing sunglasses and thongs. That’s probably off the cards now.
These books are supposed to help you remember things and you don’t have to show anyone. That’s what they said. What a load of shit. I knew the truth. I never wrote in those ones. I used to enjoy ripping the books up in front of their open-mouthed faces. Shocked, like they thought, “Well, this ones going to be a bit of hard work”. Their arms would tighten across their chests and they’d shift side on and their voices would break as they told me it didn’t matter. I could write when I was ready, they said.
Now they’re gone. And I’m finally ready.
Everything started a year and a half ago, on the last day we lived with Mum and Robert, when I was 11 and Ethan was 9.
We was fucked from the get go. Ethan and I had been playing a video game when the door started banging. Mum shrieked out that the Jacks was coming. Robert ran out the back door. I knowed straight away what time of the day it was. I glared at Ethan. He knowed too.
He screamed and dropped his controller and ran. I chased him into the room and he can smell shit when it’s smelling, so instead of making for the window, he just curled up like an echidna on our mattress. Only he ain’t got no spikes. You know how I knowed I was right? Coz even as I was bloodying his face and calling him a rat, all he done was sob and say he was sorry.
‘You rat cunt,’ I said, and I squirrel gripped him so hard I thought his balls might pop. When the pigs come in I swung haymakers and screamed every name under the sun. It took three of them and a bust to the chops to take me out. But they didn’t put us in lock-up. They chucked us in a van with some dyke looking cunt who had big glasses and a shark necklace. ‘You’re safe now,’ she said.
‘You’re not,’ I replied.
I was still handcuffed and one of the pigs sat in the room with us, but it wasn’t a cop-shop. Posters showed Abos and Whites and Gooks and Curry Munchers all together playing jigsaw puzzles. Coz all you do is see that every fucking day. Ethan was scared shitless so I let him hug me until the dyke come in looking at us like we was cute. She said something about how we must be wondering what was happening. ‘Things will get better. I promise you.’
‘Nothing was wrong, ya leso cunt.’
You can never wipe the smile off them faces; they’re trained for that shit. But hers never even flinched, not even a raised eyebrow. That made me want to stab her in the eye with a pen, but I also had a certain respect for her. Nice to have a bit of competition every now and then.
That was the first time I was given, and ripped up, a My Life Story Book. Still grinning, she offered us lollies like a kiddy fiddler. She tried asking us questions but Ethan knowed the score. When she realized we wasn’t talking, she said something that repeats in my head to this day.
‘We only ever know the family we’re born into. Everyone deserves a good family. Sometimes, through no fault of their own, kids can end up in a not-so-good family. That’s what we check on. No one deserves to have gone through what you’ve gone through. I’m your caseworker. My name is Ellie.’
I’m not saying I understood them words then, or I bought into that shit. I’m too smart for that. But at some point they came back and hit me like a rock in the head. Later on, I actually asked meself, like seriously, “What if Mum and Robert wasn’t normal?” To question something solid like that knocks you round a bit. The only way I can explain it, is like, imagine if you’ve only ever been sober, and you thought that was life, and then someone told you what it was like to be drunk or high, and you realised life could be so much better?
‘What do you think about that, Jarryd?’
‘Ellie. Smelly-Ellie. I bet you drop the meanest stinkbombs.’
Not much point harping on about that first family. It wasn’t very long. The couple’s son was a real dog cunt. Reckoned me old lady must’ve been a whore. I wasn’t having any of that and I told him so. Then he made up a story how I threatened to do some sick shit to him. We was shipped out of there the next day. In that room with the posters, Smelly-Ellie asked me what happened. ‘Nothing. He made it up. I’m gunna smash the cunt when I see him.’
‘That’s what I would want to do.
That’s actually what Smelly said. She can’t say that. It made me confused so I had to look under the table while I replied. ‘What?’
‘Well, yeah. If he said that to me and made that stuff up.’
‘And it would probably feel good. Except I guess then the police would come. And I would be in trouble, and then he would be getting all that sympathy.
‘It’s not fair, is it?’
‘I don’t know. Do you think it’s fair if everyone just beat up anyone who said things they didn’t like?’
I picked the rubber off the table. ‘I know you’re trying to trick me.’
‘I’m not, Jarryd, I promise. I’m trying to teach you that it’s okay to feel things. But you have a choice in how you respond to that. No one can say your feelings are fake, or take away your choices. But your choices have consequences, and you can’t escape those.’
‘I don’t give a flying fuck.’
She didn’t say anything right away, just leant back and fingered her necklace. ‘I don’t have to put you with another family. We could put you into Residential Care?’
Everyone knowed Resi was off its head. Bottom of the burning barrel. Not that I gave a flying fuck. But I had to think of Ethan.
I gotta give it to Smelly. She got us in with some real hot dogs. They was young, just married, and Christian. They worked as youth workers with Abos. Looked like weirdos but. Jude had a trimmed beard and gay tattoos of old people up one arm. Liana was Māori, bigger than Jude, had eyes that popped out of her head, and the biggest smile you ever did see. She had come here with her family in high school during the boom, while Jude had lived here all his life. Best of all, we was the first and only kids they ever had, so there was no-one to make fun of you or rat on you.
Even though the house was old, it was ginormous. They really knowed how to make things in the olden days. Me and Ethan even had our own rooms. It had high ceilings and all these built in drawers and wardrobes coz you need it for all your stuff if you’re rich. Downstairs was a massive tellie with Xbox that me and Ethan got to have a little go at, while Smelly and the others drank tea.
That night, they’d prepared a roast, not one from down the shops, but an actual one that you need to cook in an oven all day and have heaps of plates and dishes coz a real roast needs apple sauce and mint sauce and cranberry sauce and different gravies and plates full of other stuff like this hard stuff that looks gross and is called crackle but is so yummy. After, we sat on the couches and talked for an hour and you could tell how happy Jude and Liana was to have us.
That night, I was so excited I thought I might piss the bed. I even got up and went into Ethan’s room and we high-fived and he made room for me to slip into his bed. Sometimes we done this at our old place, but it was better on a big bed that didn’t stink. Our nighttime chats was like diving into a swimming pool on a hot summer’s day, like we just forgot everything and became silly and spoke about all kinds of shit. We couldn’t believe how good everything was. As I was leaving I told him that if he fucked this up, I would fuck him up the arse.
I fooled meself thinking it was all going to be easy, but that all changed when I had my re-entry meeting for school. I actually always attended coz there was nothing better to do. I just kept getting suspended. It took place at this boardroom with a long wooden table and all these cunty people, like all the teachers that hated me, school psychologists, Smelly, and Jude and Liana. And everyone spoke about me as if I wasn’t there, like I was some fuck-up or something. Mister Smallballs was saying there had to be standards, and Principal Withers backed him up saying teachers and students had a right to a safe learning environment.
Smelly and Jude and Liana said I was in year 7. What different learning ways had they tried? How was I supposed to learn if they just shouted at me and suspended me.
I hated it. I hated the people who wanted me to lose. I hated the people on my team. I stabbed my thumbnails into my skin. I wasn’t a fucking retard. I imagined spraying them all with an M16. They gave me a contract and a pen and everyone looked at me.
I knowed what it meant. It meant that the people that hated me was giving me a chance, and that the people on my team were relying on me. I was nervous. But I didn’t know why. It’s not like I gave a shit or nothing. Still, I was going to do what they said. Just because it made things easier.
Things was good for a bit.
Me and Jude and Liana and Ethan would go and shoot hoops at the gym. Liana was like this sick as shit baller, she could do 20 different crossovers and never let you see the ball. Jude wasn’t very good, so I regretted saying it was me and him on the same team, coz we never got to change sides.
All my behaviour and monitoring cards from school came back good. Not all the time of course, but overall, everybody said I was nailing it. They said if I kept this up, I wouldn’t have any shortened days and they would think about taking me out of the dumb classes.
Ethan and I got an hour of screen time a day, and all we done was play Xbox with it. Sometimes we snuck up late to play, but not that much coz we didn’t want to blow it. Sometimes we’d have to sit down and talk about God, but they never made us pray or nothing. They said you couldn’t make someone believe in something, but if we wanted to, then of course that was cool. They never cracked the shits when I refused to do chores and they always gave us good food. As Liana would say, it was sweet as, bro.
One time, Liana and I was on the couch practising reading when I told her I felt sorry for her. It just blurted out. She asked me what I meant.
‘Youse guys are too nice to people. Don’t get me wrong, I like yas. But youse are gunna get fucked over.’
She put the book down. ‘Some people might take advantage of us. But Jude and I are lucky. We were blessed with good families. We are blessed with God. Someone might be able to take our possessions, but they can’t touch our spirit. We can see a little bit of God in everybody, hey, bro? And we just want to help people who might have had their view distorted… That means that like, the way you see is a bit messed up.’
‘That’s why you’re doing this shit?’
‘That’s exactly it.’
‘I like you, so no offence. But youse are stupid.’
‘Don’t you think you deserve another chance?’
‘There’s nothing wrong with me.’
‘Never said there was.’
‘That’s what you meant.’
‘But I think you might’ve been through some pretty nasty stuff.’
‘No I haven’t.’
‘You want to tell me why you don’t live with your other family anymore?’
Everything just kind of froze then. I don’t know why, because she didn’t say it mean or nothing. Inside me, everything was going crazy. It felt like everything was swirling but nothing was happening. All at once I wanted to say stuff, and I wanted to punch Liana in the face, and I felt like crying even though I’ve never even cried before except for maybe when I was a baby.
‘Jarryd, you okay?’
I ran upstairs and shouted that she was a fucking bible bashing whore. I thought maybe I was going to cry so I started going nuts in the room. I put a hole in the wall and I smashed my lamp. I pinched my thighs so hard that when I woke up they was purple. I deserved it. Liana was one fucking person who was nice and all I wanted to do was be mean and try and hurt her.
The next day Liana didn’t say nothing about it. She even gave me a big hug. I promised myself I was going to do better.
It was a stupid basketball game that done it. We was in class, on the outside courts, playing a round robin. I got stuck on a team that sucked. In the first game we versed Jethro Saunders’ team. He played state and they demolished us.
But in the next few games something happened, I don’t even know what. It was like I could jump higher, run faster, and control the ball more. I was dominating and you shoulda seen everyone cheering me. Even the teacher, Donald, was giving me high fives! In the semi-final, when scores was level, I hit two threes and we was through to the final, against Jethro’s team. Whoa, mate, was I nervous.
I told the others I would man Jethro. And I took it to him. It was unbelievable. He couldn’t work out why he couldn’t get around me, or couldn’t defend me as easily. I wasn’t smashing him or nothing, but we was neck and neck, and you could tell he was getting upset, that he didn’t know what to do. The whole crowd was cheering me. I remember, for the first time in my life, I think people actually wanted me to win.
Deep in the second half the scores was level. Jethro received a pass and moved towards the key, while I covered him, and he tried a crossover I remember Liana had showed me, so I knowed what he was doing, but he still tried to make the layup, and I jumped up and rejected the absolute shit out of him. The ball fell to one of our players and we was dribbling it up when the whistle went. The rest of the class was yelling. Everyone looked to Mister Donald. ‘Foul. Jethro, two shots.’
‘Donald, na, man.’
I jogged over to him. ‘Mister Donald, it was all ball, I swear.’
‘I saw arm.’
‘Hey, Jarryd. The umpire has made his decision.’
‘Fuck you, ya fucking dogger. You’re fucked.’
‘You heard me. You’re fucked, cunt. I know your car. Nissan Narava you won’t get far-a.’
‘Right, Jarryd, you’re buddied out of class.’
‘You think I give a fuck? I’m gunna slit your throat after school ya big nosed prick.’
We didn’t get to finish the game, coz Donald’s softer than silk. No one would listen to me. I kept on trying to explain to Ellie, to the Coordinator, to the Principal, that I read Jethro’s crossover, that he leaped up and turned side on, and I timed it knowing where his body was going and I slapped the ball on the side where his hand wasn’t. It was all ball. I told Liana and Jude. I showed them my hand, I basically had the ball print still on it. No-one listened.
The school suspended me for ten days.
My blood boiled something shocking. For all the rage I felt, I could barely sleep. When I did wake up me teeth and jaw caned from chomping all night. I remember I kept on telling myself to not be mad, and to forget everything, and then four seconds later I’d be fantasizing about crunching someone’s teeth into a brick wall.
On the third morning off school Jude sent me to the milk bar to get something. From across the road, two girls dawdled with Clint Robbins who walked with his sick as shit Malvern Star BMX, the one with yellow rims. They was in their school uniforms on their way to Homeroom. I was near that Italian house with the arches and the gravel stones out the front. I didn’t even know I was doing it. I picked up the stones and folded them in my shirt and hid behind the wall. When they got close I let them have it. One of the girls grabbed at her head and was crying as they piss-bolted. I laughed my damn head off. Made me feel good all day. Slept like a drunk on payday that night. Of course I was going to do it again. I just hid behind the lot and pegged stones at whoever was in school uniform. That’s when the cops nabbed me. I got suspended for the rest of term. What fucking bullshit. I wasn’t even at school.
If I could go back in time and tell meself that sometimes your fuck-ups aren’t that bad, but only become bad when you make them that way in your head, then I would. That’s what I think was going wrong for me, my head. But I didn’t know how to fix it. And now I don’t know how to turn back time. Some people are just fucked-up.
One day soon after, Ethan had got home from school and I was pushing him on the swing. He was giggling when I got him up high and I always loved seeing Ethan happy, so I gave him my hardest push. It was a little off-centre. The ropes twisted and Ethan come out onto the pavers. You know how Ethan’s soft, well, he starts bawling his eyes out. Liana ran out and I’d never seen her pissed before. But she just shouted that what I done was mean and I would go straight to bed and get no dinner. I was so stunned I didn’t even tell her to go fuck herself. The thing was, I didn’t mean to do it. I actually didn’t. I know sometimes I don’t take blame for stuff but this time I really really meant it, it was an accident. For everything I didn’t call Liana, I made up for it. I got up that night and took all the crosses off every room in the house except their bedroom. I snapped the lot of them and left them on the kitchen table.
They was acting weird the next day and I sensed I might have gone too far. They didn’t say nothing. Just did everything the same, made me brekkie, asked what I would do later, rah, rah, rah. Except their smiles wasn’t real. Even Liana couldn’t hide it.
When Smelly showed up my breath stopped coming. I clenched my spoon. Froze at the table and thought about disappearing into the Super Pit. Smelly kissed me on the cheek and said she’d see me in a bit. Me and Ethan just sat there with our cereal untouched while they fighted in the other room. When they come out Liana and Jude had tears in their eyes and Smelly’s face was red like a cricket ball. Veins in her neck popped bad. She said we better go pack my stuff.
‘No, not you Ethan.’
Ethan was half off his chair, milk running down his chin, staring at me. And then he turned his head down, and then he got back on his chair real slow. He never looked at me or said nothing. I wanted to drown him in his milk. But something funny happened. All of a sudden, I wanted to hug him and tell him that I… Anyway, he made the right decision.
In the car I was worried about Smelly. She leant forward so much I thought she was trying to put her head through the windshield. I told her I wished I wasn’t such a fuck-up, and that she should stop trying to fix me.
A mouse cry came out. She pressed the back of her hand to her lips and shook her head. In a voice I’d never heard before, she told me that she wasn’t angry at me. She said this shouldn’t have happened. She said it wasn’t my fault. She couldn’t stress that enough. Man, some people are so dumb. Piss. Fucking. Weak.
At Resi I learned that I was still wet behind the ears. There was 7 other people and most of them was older and bigger. Tyson was the boss, and early on he gave me a flogging so I knowed the fact. He was 15, the size of a Boulder City Centre Half Forward, and missing both his front teeth. When Smelly found me with a bruised face, she promised to get me out of there. She said it was out of her control. She said it was disgusting how they privatised it. I said I liked having my own room, but she said that wasn’t what she meant. She kept her word about coming back. I just wished it had of been sooner.
It’s not as if they didn’t have no rules or nothing. The problem was them flogs only ever had one person working. There was eight kids in a massive two storey-house. The pigs were in every other day. You was either a bullier or bullied. The bullied would lock themselves in their rooms for as long as possible. We would bang on their doors and yell that they couldn’t stay in there forever. I didn’t like doing it, but I didn’t want it done to me either.
A few months in, after Tiana ran off and they couldn’t find her, Bradley moved in. You could tell there was something broken about him. He looked like an undersized branch on a dead tree, and his sandy hair dangled around these faded grey eyes. But there was still something sweet about him. A giggle would come out of nowhere, like sunshine through clouds. But that was a problem coz if Tyson sniffed that kind of stuff, he’d want to break it. I knowed I had to help Simon, but I had to do it smart. It was easy to steal a broom from the closet. I leveraged one end inside my drawers and snapped it with my leg. I sharpened it on the metal bed-railing. After a couple of weeks I had a pretty mean shiv.
I didn’t do nothing straight away. I admit I was scared. But I realized things had to change the day we Tyson-bombed Simon in the backyard. A Tyson-bomb was when we held down the victim’s feet and body, while Tyson stood near the head and held down the arms, and then he’d jump in the air, swing his knees up as high as possible, and land knees first on the persons ribs. You could tell something fucked-up had happened by the high-pitched wheeze that came out of Simon. We said we was sorry, helped him to his room, warned him not to tell anyone, and bolted to our own rooms.
I was raging. I hated myself a lot. I sharpened my shiv on the railing for an hour straight.
Simon didn’t come out of his room the next day or the next night. Around midnight, Tyson was banging on his door and yelling at him to come out. We’d always do this to the bitches. Tyson said he hoped Simon was in there hanging himself, coz if he ever came out again then there would be worse stuff waiting for him. He never saw me coming, and that’s how these things have to happen. I shived him hell deep into the back of his thigh, until he dropped, and then I pushed it in further, and then I took it out and he was screaming and blood was pissing everywhere, and I told that dogger to fuck off, and that if he ever picked on Simon again, I would slit his throat.
I whispered to Simon that it was okay. He opened the door, tears in his eyes. I had protected him. He let me in and I comforted him, told him that would never happen again. Tyson must have ratted on me the dirty cunt coz at some point the carer came in and screamed for Simon to stop doing that and for me to pull up my pants.
Smelly looked the worst I ever seen her when she picked me up. She wasn’t angry or sad… She wasn’t nothing. I tried to crack a joke and she tried to smile but it didn’t really work. We pulled down an alley near the main street and I asked her where we was going but she stopped the car. She didn’t look at me when she spoke. ‘It’s time to go, Jarryd.’
‘We can’t look after you anymore.’
She closed her eyes and I could tell she was trying not to cry. I knowed what that meant.
‘What about Mum and Robert?’
‘I can’t take you there. We know about Robert. You know, you can come to the office whenever you want. I’ll talk to you and give you food. Just ask for me.’
We just sat there for ages.
‘But Smelly… You can’t do this.’
She put her hand over her mouth. Her eyes was wet. ‘Darling…I’m so sorry. Something hasn’t happened how it was supposed to…The police know. They’ll call me if anything happens, okay?’
What could I say? I really wanted her to hug me. But she didn’t. And I wasn’t going to ask for one coz I’m not a pussy. I took out my backpack and she drove off. I walked up the street and everything seemed different. The wide roads and the big old pubs and the wide blue sky. Empty or something. I sat on a bench and waited. I reckoned the seconds started taking a longer time.
My name is Jarryd, I’m 13, and that was My Life Story Book.