Wednesday, September 01, 2004

once in a blue moon

"I fell over today," my friend says and I laugh. "Fell on my face. I was walking in Chinatown with my cousin and I tripped over a chair. You know--glasses flying, bruised arms and legs, everything. Yeah, it was pretty embarrassing." We laugh. Then she says,
"And I had a car accident today, too. I was reversing out of the garage and I ran into the fence."
I tell her it’s the second accident I’ve been told about today. This morning, another friend’s wife was knocked off her motorbike. Then I realise it’s actually the third motor accident I’ve been told of today. My neighbor who stopped by this afternoon to invite me to Bible fellowship told me that he’d been in a head-on smash recently and had walked away without a scratch.
"I’m just so tired lately," my friend says. "I’ve been doing all these double shifts." She works in respite, with disabled children. They’ve had a lot of funding cuts and staff cuts, and as a result all the staff are doing these crazy stretches of double shifts.
She says, "And a boy attacked me today, Gianna, and another boy ran away. Yeah. The younger one, the one who ran away, he was missing for about an hour until they found him in the park where luckily a picnicking family had found him. Yeah. He just walked off down the road. We had to call Emergency."
This happened yesterday in Sydney's West. The boy took off while she was cooking the children’s lunch. Apparently he has done it many times before. I become angry at the Department. "I mean, how can you be expected to watch them all as well as cook their lunch, for god’s sake? You can't be in two places at once.”
"Well, that's the thing."
"Were both these boys autistic?"
"Jesus. And you know, you would’ve been the one who was blamed if something had happened. And what happened with the boy who attacked you?"
"He scratched me right across the chest. Well, he didn’t mean to hurt me. He just got overexcited. Sometimes these kids, they get so agitated, you know? Agitated, but happy. They get so kind of wound up, they can accidentally hurt you. So this boy--he’s about fourteen, really tall, and you know, really strong--was kind of wrestling me, and I was trying to restrain him, this giant...I tell you Gianna, all my karate skills came in handy.”
"And I bet they’d want to keep all this hush-hush," I say, furious at the Government—Tony Abbott in particular--for cutting health funding.
My friend says, "Anyway, it’s a full moon today. Maybe that’s got something to do with it."
"And it’s a blue moon." I say. "They're meant to be good for lovers," I add. While I’m out the back talking to her on the portable phone I suddenly become aware of some kind of electronic melody coming from about a hundred metres away, down the back of the house towards the creek. I’m thinking it’s someone across the valley playing with a synthesiser until I realise it’s frogs doing these harmonies.
"That reminds me," I say to my friend, "I had a visit from the devout Christian up the road this afternoon. He came to tell me about the Lord Jesus." He's a big man, a professional fisherman by trade, and would be handsome except for his one black front tooth. He and his wife, knowing I’m a single mother, are determined to fix me up with a good husband. In the past they've tried to engineer a meeting with a local widower who lost his wife and children in a car accident. Now my neighbor mentioned this man again. "He’s embraced the Lord," he said with satisfaction.
All the while the messenger of the Lord was in my living room, the baby grinned and drooled and jumped up and down with pleasure as I held him, and I was reminded of his reaction to Clara, who also happened to be a devout Christian.
"He likes me," my neighbor said. "Babies can tell." I didn't tell him the baby likes all men; those deep-voiced faces with the silver or white or red hair on their heads and sometimes their chins as well.
I told my neighbor I didn’t really get into religion. I said I had more of a Zen kind of philosophy, where you might say everything is divine, and you don’t have to do anything about it either.
The man snapped his fingers. "Ah, but you can’t be forgiven until you take Jesus as your Lord. Don’t you want to be forgiven?"
I told him I didn't think I needed to be forgiven for anything at the moment actually. I felt like I had disappointed him so I agreed to his request that I read the Bible, because I’ve never actually read it. I said I would be happy to read it as a piece of literature. He said he’d bring me one and that I should start at Matthew.
"Can’t I just start at the beginning," I said. He said that was the beginning. I said then why did he have to tell me to start there.
"It’s the start of the Second Testament," he said. "You know how there’s two Testaments?"-–here he smiled indulgently as if I was a bit of a fool-—"one, written four hundred years before Christ, and then one written after the Lord has died and gone to Heaven." He made a movement with his hand as if someone was swimming towards the ceiling.
Now, listening to the frogs, I tell my friend who got attacked, crashed her car, fell over and lost a boy today, that there's one thing about these people that always fascinates me: how they give off this amazing positive energy, this radiance borne of their absolute certainty.
Anyway, I'm thinking maybe I’ll go along to the fellowship after all, just out of curiosity. Go along and be a spy in the house of certainty. Could be interesting.