A Portrait of the Supporter as a Young Woman – part 2

 

“Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother’s love is not.”
– James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

 

==

 

Little Jenny sees the boy; watches the boy. The great wobbling hulk of him. He stands on the balls of his feet, inwards-turned feet, leaning forwards. He is big. Somehow the leaning seems to amplify his yelling.

 

“We’re gonna smash you. Smash you!”

 

The boy beast tugs at his synthetic footy jumper as he yells; all covered in advertising symbols. It’s a garish outfit; with the hint of reef fish.

 

“You’re in for a SMASHING! And I can’t wait!”

 

Little Jenny glances sideways. It’s probably just talk. Most probably. Things like that are said all the time. All the time. Little Jenny knows that sometimes the smashing really does happen, whereas most times it does not. She gathers herself and she smiles to herself and she walks out through the iron school gate. As if everything is fine. She crosses the street and once she has safely crossed the street she knows that now everything actually is fine. She has not been smashed. That boy did not smash her. It’s the weekend again. And Monday is a long way away.

 

==

 

She walks home, lets herself in. The key slides easily into the front door lock. A patter of rain starts up as she silently sits on the brown couch. She knows not to eat toast here. Yet little Jenny furtively takes a chipped dinner plate from the cupboard and eats buttered toast here on the couch. Right here. She is very careful to catch all the crumbs.

 

It’s well dark when her Mum arrives home. “Tonight is the night, Jen girl. The big night.”

Her mum’s hair is wet. Her mum’s flimsy coat is wet and her mum clutches a brown paper bag. “Sorry I’m late. Have you eaten?”

 

Their team has won a lot this year. Enough that they will probably play in the finals. And tonight’s game is against another top performer. “Match of the round,” little Jenny had heard it called. It was a striking thing. They were playing in Match of the Round.

 

“Can you believe it, Jen-Jen? It could be our year!”

Little Jenny quietly carries her dirty plate into the kitchen; quietly lest she draws attention to herself. Jen’s Mum stands at the bench, unscrewing the lid from a bottle of wine.

 

“Ahh.”

 

Little Jenny is happy. She sees how this season is affecting her Mum. Her Mum has voiced that same phrase every day for the past week. “It could be our year.”

 

Opening the fridge throws cool white light through the gloom. Last week the kitchen light bulb had broken. Or was it the week before? Since then it had been sort of fun to get by without it.

 

==

 

Little Jenny would like to understand how their team is winning. Why could this year be their year? She would like to know why. Because if she knew why, she could help them keep winning. She would help them. And by helping their team, Jenny could keep her Mum happy. And by keeping her Mum happy, Jenny could avoid the sad nights. The angry nights.

 

“Are you hungry, Jen-girl?”

 

Little Jenny worries about that. She has no idea why her team is suddenly winning. It almost seems random. Her team has the same coach as last year. Mostly the same players.

It’s very difficult to pinpoint what exactly has changed this year. Impossible.

 

Jen looks towards the cold white light. Their fridge contains  milk, butter and now a bottle of white wine. Two bottles.

 

“A bit.”

 

Nobody could explain it to her. It could be our year! Nobody.

 

“They’ve had no injuries, Jen,” had said her Grandma.
But they had had injuries.

“They’re playing for each other, darl,” had said her neighbour.
But hadn’t they done that every week? Every year?

“Their game plan is working,” had said the fella at the milk bar.

“Everyone is getting along,” had said her teacher.

 

 

Jenny’s mum reaches into her bag, lying askew on the kitchen bench.

 

“Grab us a couple of plates, love.”

 

 

==

 

“The mass of the rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else,and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit.”
-George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London

 

==

 

 

Little Jenny couldn’t get the puzzle pieces to fit.

Maybe it was simply luck.
It could be our year!
Maybe they were on a lucky streak.

 

Little Jenny fetches two plates from the rack and places them on the bench. She sits at the kitchen bench and she reaches for her childhood book, left on the bench since last weekend. An old, careworn copy of Aesop’s fables. The boy who cried wolf, the goose who laid golden eggs among them.

 

Little Jenny opens her book to a random page. She likes doing that. She had always liked doing that.

“Which story did it land on this time, Jen-girl?” asks her mum, slumping onto a chair.

 

A small spark glints in Jenny’s eye. She loves reading to her mum. It could be our year! And she reads.

 

“A Dog, to whom the butcher had thrown a bone, was hurrying home with his prize as fast as he could go. As he crossed a narrow footbridge, he happened to look down and saw himself reflected in the quiet water as if in a mirror. But the greedy Dog thought he saw a real Dog carrying a bone much bigger than his own.

“If he had stopped to think he would have known better. But instead of thinking, he dropped his bone and sprang at the Dog in the river, only to find himself swimming for dear life to reach the shore. At last he managed to scramble out, and as he stood sadly thinking about the good bone he had lost, he realized what a stupid Dog he had been.”

 

==

 

Little Jenny closes the book.

She looks up at her mum.

 

Jenny’s mum looks to her bag.

“I like that one,” she says.

 

Sighing as she stands, Jenny’s mum reaches into her battered old bag.

The smell hits Little Jenny before anything else. The familiarity.

 

“Oh wow!” she says. “Mum… is that…?”

 

From the TV, the tune of their footy club’s song floats into the kitchen.

 

 

And Little Jenny’s mum opens this parcel of fish and chips. This bounty.

 

“Oh mum. It’s already our year!”

 

 

Somewhere, a dog gnaws on a bone.

 

 

==

 

 

Part 1: A Portrait of the Supporter as a Young Woman, May 2017

 

 

 

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About David Wilson

Hit for a towering 6 by Mike Gatting at the Banyule Cricket Club, December 2002, theatrically attempting to reproduce the SK Warne delivery. The ball is yet to land. @e_regnans

Comments

  1. O, the wild rose blossoms
    On the little green place.

    Tralala

  2. E.regnans says:

    Well, you have certainly improved this page, Joey D.

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