In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes, part Maori, part European, an artist estranged from her art, a woman in exile from her family. One night her solitude is disrupted by a visitor — a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon, who tries to steal from her and then repays her with his most precious possession. As Kerewin succumbs to Simon's feral charm, she also falls under the spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck and now treats him with an unsettling mixture of tenderness and brutality. Out of this unorthodox trinity Keri Hulme has created what is at once a mystery, a love story, and an ambitious exploration of the zone where Maori and European New Zealand meet, clash, and sometimes merge. Winner of both a Booker Prize and Pegasus Prize for Literature, The Bone People is a work of unfettered wordplay and mesmerizing emotional complexity.

Keri Hulme

The Bone People

Keri Hulme. Preface to the First Edition

Standards in a non-standard Book

The Bone People began life as a short story called "Simon Peter's Shell". I typed it out on my first typewriter, nights after working in the Motueka tobacco fields. The typewriter was a present for my 18th birthday from my mother, but that's another story.

"Simon Peter's Shell" began to warp into a novel. The characters wouldn't go away. They took 12 years to reach this shape. To me, it's a finished shape, so finished that I don't want to have anything to do with any alteration of it. Which is why I was going to embalm the whole thing in a block of perspex when the first three publishers turned it down on the grounds, among others, that it was too large, too unwieldy, too different when compared with the normal shape of novel.

Enter, to sound of trumpets and cowrieshell rattles, the Spiral Collective.

The exigencies of collective publishing demand that individuals work in an individual way. Communication with me was difficult

— I live five hundred miles away, don't have a telephone, and receive only intermittent mail delivery — so consensus on small points of punctuation never was reached. I like the diversity.

The editor should have ensured a uniformity? Well, I was lucky with my editors, who respected how I feel about… oddities. For instance, I think the shape of words brings a response from the reader

— a tiny, subconscious, unacknowledged but definite response. "OK" studs a sentence. "Okay" is a more mellow flowing word when read silently. "Bluegreen" is a meld, conveying a colour neither blue nor green but both: "blue-green" is a two-colour mix. Maybe the editors were too gentle with my experiments and eccentricities. Great! The voice of the writer won through.

To those used to one standard, this book may offer a taste passing strange, like the original mouthful of kina roe. Persist. Kina can Become a favourite food.

An explanatory dream: I am in an open windowed railway carriage, going slowly round some mountains. I say to an unknown friend, "Hey! These must be the Rimatakas," and sure enough, across the pasty mountains rolls the inscription RIMUTAKAS 10,000 FEET HIGH, liquorice black on almond icing, and the carriage turns into a Club Room. The lady in charge has a smile hedged with teeth.

"O yes, you can become a member. It'll cost $10." I offer a plastic card very bloody conscious I don't have a dollar, let alone ten. I say, guiltily, whakama, "This jersey I'm wearing, the moth holes only came up now. It was really white before." She smiles, and goes away into the dark. It really surprises me when she returns with a jug of beer and another smile for me and my friend. We all sit there, dozens of us, train rocking sadly, mountains cold, moth-holes, but not a squash court in sight.

Make of it what you will.

Kia ora koutou katoa.

Keri Hulme, 1984

Prologue. The End At The Beginning

He walks down the street. The asphalt reels by him.

It is all silence.

The silence is music.

He is the singer.

The people passing smile and shake their heads.

He holds a hand out to them.

They open their hands like flowers, shyly.

He smiles with them.

The light is blinding: he loves the light.

They are the light.

He walks down the street. The asphalt is hot and soft with sun.

The people passing smile, and call out greetings.

He smiles and calls back.

His mind is full of change and curve and hope, and he knows it is being lightly tapped. He laughs.

Maybe there is the dance, as she says. Creation and change, destruction and change.

New marae from the old marae, a beginning from the end.

His mind weaves it into a spiral fretted with stars.

He holds out his hand, and it is gently taken.

She walks down the street. The asphalt sinks beneath her muscled feet.

She whistles softly as she walks. Sometimes she smiles.

The people passing smile too, but duck their heads in a deferential way as though her smile is too sharp.

She grins more at their lowered heads. She can dig out each thought, each reaction, out from the grey brains, out through the bones. She knows how. She knows a lot.

She is eager to know more.

But for now there is the sun at her back, and home here, and the free wind all round.

And them, shuffling ahead in the strange-paced dance. She

quickens her steps until she has reached them. And she sings as she takes their hands.

They were nothing more than people, by themselves. Even paired, any pairing, they would have been nothing more than people by themselves. But all together, they have become the heart and muscles and mind of something perilous and new, something strange and growing and great.

Together, all together, they are the instruments of change.

IN THE BEGINNING, it was darkness, and more fear, and a howling wind across the sea.

"Why not leave him?"

They can't whisper any more.

"No guarantee he'll stay on the bottom. Besides, we'll have to come back for the boat."

The voice. The nightmare voice. The vivid haunting terrible voice, that seemed to murmur endearments all the while the hands skilfully and cruelly hurt him.

"We'll have to move soon."

It is happening again, and like the time before, there is nothing he can do to stop it. It will take away the new people, it will break him, it will start all over again. He cannot change it. And worst of all, he knows in an inchoate way that the greatest terror is yet to come.

There is a sudden pause in the crashing of the waves, and a drawn prescient hissing.

"Jump now! Take the jacket, I'll swim. I can take care of him…."

Even now, the barb of laughter in his voice.

Take care? Aiie!

In the memory in the black at the back of his eyes, there are words, different words. Help, but not help. Words. There were words.

But then the overwhelming wrenching groan of the boat as she struck the rocks.

IN THE BEGINNING, it was a tension, an element of strain that

grew and crept like a thin worm through the harmony of their

embrace.

"What is it you want?"

"Ahh nothing… you're all the man I need." Chuckles in the warm dark.

Sitting up then and saying to him urgently:

"You must have a son. You must have people."

It gnaws at him. She knew, somehow, that she wasn't going to

be the person who gave him a son, who gave him people. And she

never told him.

Then, he had only chuckled again and said, "Well, we got him

on the way, ne?"

But the undefinable careworm was still there.

After the storm-night, they talked about the tide-washed child.

"I think he likes us," he had said.

"He needs you… look at him hold on though he's not himself

yet."

"Shall we keep him then?" half-joking.

She had answered "Yes!" without hesitation.

"Before our baby? Before our son?"

"Before them all, man," and she had turned out of his arms and

danced, in lumbering triumphant glee.

Then the worm of care had gone. They were whole and sound

together until the night they took her away.

It gnaws at him: the last words she gave him as they wheeled

her under the flaring lights. Harsh and whispered, "O Ngakau, mind

our child."

Timote was already dead.

She meant the other one, the one who sat on his lap unmoved

it seemed, while he was shook and robbed of breath by sobbing.

"Hana is dead, dead, dead…" the pale child held his hand, and

looked into his face with alien sea-coloured eyes, unclouded by tears.

Marama said how bitterly, how hysterically upset he had been. But

he never showed it to me.

It gnaws at him: he has this one thing left of her, this secondhand,

barely-touched half-formed relic of her presence.

And he no longer really wants it.

And he knows the rock of desolation, and the deep of despair.

SHE HAD DEBATED, in the frivolity of the beginning, whether

to build a hole or a tower; a hole, because she was fond of hobbits,

or a tower well,

a tower for many reasons, but chiefly because

she liked spiral stairways.

As time went on, and she thought over the pros and cons of each,

the idea of a tower became increasingly exciting; a stargazing

platform on top; a quiet library, book-lined, with a ring of swords

on the nether wall; a bedroom, mediaeval style, with massive roofbeams and a plain hewn bed; there'd be a living room with a huge

fireplace, and rows of spicejars on one wall, and underneath, on

the ground level, an entrance hall hung with tapestries, and the

beginnings of the spiral stairway, handrails dolphin-headed, saluting

the air.

There'd be a cellar, naturally, well stocked with wines, homebrewed

and imported vintage; lined with Chinese ginger jars, and

wooden boxes of dates. Barrels round the walls, and shadowed chests

in corners.

All through the summer sun she laboured, alone with the paid,

bemused, professional help. The dust obscured and flayed, thirst

parched, and tempers frayed, but the Tower grew. A concrete

skeleton, wooden ribs and girdle, skin of stone, grey and slate blue

and heavy honey-coloured. Until late one February it stood, gaunt

and strange and embattled, built on an almost island in the shallows

of an inlet, tall in Taiaroa.

It was the hermitage, her glimmering retreat. No people invited,

for what could they know of the secrets that crept and chilled and

chuckled in the marrow of her bones? No need of people, because

she was self-fulfilling, delighted with the pre-eminence of her art,

and the future of her knowing hands.

But the pinnacle became an abyss, and the driving joy ended. At

last there was a prison.

I am encompassed by a wall, high and hard and stone, with only

my brainy nails to tear it down.

And I cannot do it.

I. Season Of The Day Moon

1. Portrait Of A Sandal

"… like our bullock, Jack. Bugger'll be on the old age pension before he's killed."

"Yeah, but look who's laughing meantime?"

There was a rattle of laughter round the bar.

Kerewin, sitting apart, rang a coin on the counter and beckoned

the barman.

"Same again?"

"Yes please."

This ship that sets its sails forever

rigid on my coin

is named Endeavour.

She buys a drink to bar the dreams

of the long nights lying.

The world is never what it seems

and the sun is dying…

She shrugs.

Wonder what would happen if I started singing out loud?

The beer moves in a whirlpool to the lip of the glass: the hose

withdraws.

"Had a nice night?" asks the barman politely.

It's the first thing anybody has said to her.

"Yeah."

He hands her back the change.

"Fishing been any good?"

How long did it take to get round town that I had bought a

boat?

"O fair enough," she says, "fair enough."

"Well, that's good…." he mops the bartop cursorily and drifts

away down to the other end of the bar, to the talk and the overcurious

people.

It's late, Holmes, way after eleven. There's no point in staying.

There had been no point in coming to the pub either, other than

to waste some more time, and drink some more beer.

Guffaws.

Somebody's in the middle of a rambling drunken anecdote. A Maori,

thickset, a working bloke with steel-toed boots, and black hair down to his shoulders. He's got his fingers stuck in his belt, and the heavy brass buckle of it glints and twinkles as he teeters back and forwards."…And then fuckin hell would you believe he takes the candle…."

I'd believe the poor effing fella's short of words. Or thought. Or maybe just intellectual energy.

The word is used monotonously, a sad counterbalance for every phrase. "And no good for even fuckin Himi eh? Shit, no use, I said…."

Why this speech filled with bitterness and contempt? You hate English, man? I can understand that but why not do your conversing in Maori and spare us this contamination? No swear words in that tongue… there he goes again. Ah hell, the fucking word has its place, but all the time?… aue.

Kerewin shakes her head. No use thinking about it. She drains her glass, slips off the stool, and heads for the door.

The group at the end of the bar turns round to stare. The man stops his yarn and smiles blurrily at her. She didn't smile back.

"Goodnight," calls the barman.

"Goodnight."

The crayfish moved in silence through clear azure water. Bright scarlet armour, waving antennae, red legs stalking onward. Azure and scarlet. Beautiful.

It was about then she realised she was in the middle of a dream, because living crayfish were purple-maroon and orange: only when cooked, do they turn scarlet. A living boiled cray? A crayfish cooking as it walked calmly through a hot pool?

She shuddered. The crayfish moved more quickly through the blue crystal sea and the fog of dreaming increased-

It is still dark but she can't sleep any more. She dresses and goes down to the beach, and sits on the top of a sandhill until the sky pales.

Another day, herr Gott, and I am tired, tired.

She stands, and grimaces, and spits. The spittle lies on the sand a moment, a part of her a moment ago, and then it vanishes, sucked in, a part of the beach now.

Fine way to greet the day, my soul… go down to the pools, Te Kaihau, and watch away the last night sourness.

And here I am, balanced on the salt stained rim, watching minute navy-blue fringes, gill-fingers of tubeworms, fan the water… put the shadow of a finger near them, and they flick outasight. Eyes in your lungs… neat. The three-fin blenny swirls by… tena koe, fish. A small bunch of scarlet and gold anemones furl and unfurl their arms, graceful petals slow and lethal… tickle tickle, and they turn into uninteresting lumps of brownish jelly… haven't made sea-anemone soup for a while, whaddaboutit? Not today, Josephine… at the bottom, in a bank of brown bulbous weed, a hermit crab is rustling a shell. Poking at it, sure it's empty? Ditheringly unsure… but now, nervously hunched over his soft slug of belly, he extricates himself from his old hutch and speeds deftly into the new… at least, that's where you thought you were going, e mate?… hoowee, there really is no place like home, even when it's grown a couple of sizes too small-

There is a great bank of Neptune's necklaces fringing the next pool.

"The sole midlittoral fuccoid," she intones solemnly, and squashes a bead of it under the butt of her stick. "Ann me father he was orange and me mother she was green," slithers off the rocks, and wanders further away down the beach, humming. Nothing like a tidepool for taking your mind off things, except maybe a quiet spot of killing-

Walking the innocent stick alongside, matching its step to hers, she climbs back up the sandhills. Down the other side in a rush, where it is dark and damp still, crashing through loose clusters of lupins. Dew sits in the centre of each lupin-leaf, hands holding jewels to catch the sunfire until she brushes past and sends the jewels sliding, drop by drop weeping off.

The lupins grow less; the marram grass diminishes into a kind of reedy weed; the sand changes by degrees into mud. It's an estuary, where someone built a jetty, a long long time ago. The planking has rotted, and the uneven teeth of the pilings jut into nowhere now.

It's an odd macabre kind of existence. While the nights away in drinking, and fill the days with petty killing. Occasionally, drink out a day and then go and hunt all night, just for the change.

She shakes her head.

Who cares? That's the way things are now. (I care.)

She climbs a piling, and using the stick as a balancing pole, jumps across the gaps from one pile to the next out to the last. There she sits down, dangling her legs, stick against her shoulder, and lights a cigarillo to smoke away more time.

Intermittent wheezing flutes from oystercatchers.

at

The sound of the sea. A gull keening.

When the smoke is finished, she unscrews the top of the stick and draws out seven inches of barbed steel. It fits neatly into slots

in the stick top.

"Now, flounders are easy to spear, providing one minds the toes." Whose, hers or the fishes', she has never bothered finding out. She rolls her jeans legs up as far as they'll go, and slips down into the cold water. She steps ankle deep, then knee deep, and stands, feeling for the moving of the tide. Then slowly, keeping the early morning sun in front of her, she begins to stalk, mind in her hands and eyes looking only for the puff of mud and swift silted skid of a disturbed flounder.

All this attention for sneaking up on a fish? And they say we humans are intelligent? Sheeit…

and with a darting levering jab, stabbed, and a flounder flaps bloody holed at the end of the stick. Kerewin looks at it with slow smiled satisfaction.

Goodbye soul wringing night. Good morning sinshine, and a fat happy day.

The steeled stick quivers.

She pulls a rolled-up sack from her belt and drops the fish, still weakly flopping, in it. She hangs the lot up by sticking her knife through the sack neck into a piling side.

The water round the jetty is at thigh-level when she brings the third fish back, but there has been no hurry. She guts the fish by the rising tide's edge, and lops off their heads for the mud crabs to pick. Then she lies down in a great thicket of dun grass, and using one arm as a headrest and the other as a sunshade, falls quietly

asleep.

It is the cold that wakes her, and clouds passing over the face of the sun. There is an ache in the back of her neck, and her pillowing arm is numb. She stands up stiffly, and stretches: she smells rain coming. A cloud of midge-like flies blunders into her face and hair. On the ground round the sack hovers another swarm, buzzing thinly through what would seem to be for them a fog of fish. The wind is coming from the sea. She picks up the sack, and sets off for home through the bush. Raupo and fern grow into a tangle of gorse: a track appears and leads through the gorse to a stand of wind warped trees. They are ngaio. One tree stands out from its fellows, a giant of the kind, nearly ten yards tall.

Some of its roots are exposed and form a bowl-like seat. Kerewin sits down for a smoke, as she nearly always does when she comes this way, keeping a weather eye open for rain.

In the dust at her feet is a sandal.

For a moment she is perfectly still with the unexpectedness of it.

Then she leans forward and picks it up.

It can't have been here for long because it isn't damp. It's rather smaller than her hand, old and scuffed, with the position of each toe palely upraised in the leather. The stitching of the lower strap was coming undone, and the buckle hung askew.

"Young to be running loose round here."

She frowns. She doesn't like children, doesn't like people, and has discouraged anyone from coming on her land.

"If I get hold of you, you'll regret it, whoever you are-"

She squats down and peers up the track. There are footprints, one set of them. Of a sandalled foot and half an unshod foot.

Limping? Something in its foot so that's why the sandal is taken off and left behind?

She rubs a finger inside the sandal. The inner sole was shiny and polished from long wearing and she could feel the indentation of the foot. Well-worn indeed… in the heel though there is a sharpedged protrusion of leather, like a tiny crater rim. She turns it over. There is a corresponding in driven hole in the rubber.

"So we jumped on something that bit, did we?"

She slings the sandal into the sack of flounders, and marches away belligerently, hoping to confront its owner.

But a short distance before her garden is reached, the one and a half footprints trail off the track, heading towards the beach.

Beaches aren't private, she thinks, and dismisses the intruder from her mind.

The wind is blowing more strongly when she pushes open the heavy door, and the sky is thick with dark cloud.

"Storm's coming," as she shuts the door, "but I am safe inside-"

The entrance hall, the second level of the six-floored Tower, is low and stark and shadowed. There is a large brass and wood crucifix on the far wall and green seagrass matting over the floor. The handrail of the spiral staircase ends in the carved curved flukes of a dolphin; otherwise, the room is bare of furniture and ornament. She runs up the stairs, and the sack drips as it swings.

"One two three aleary hello my sweet mere hell these get steeper daily, days of sun and wine and jooyyy,"

the top, and stop, breathless.

"Holmes you are thick and unfit and getting fatter day by day. But what the hell…."

She puts the flounders on bent wire hooks and hangs them in the coolsafe. She lights the fire, and stokes up the range, and goes upstairs to the library for a book on flatfish cooking. There is just about everything in her library.

A sliver of sudden light as she comes from the spiral into the booklined room, and a moment later, the distant roll of thunder.

"Very soon, my beauty, all hell will break loose…" and her words hang in the stillness.

She stands over by the window, hands fistplanted on her hips, and watches the gathering boil of the surf below. She has a curious feeling as she stands there, as though something is out of place, a wrongness somewhere, an uneasiness, an overwatching. She stares morosely at her feet (longer second toes still longer, you think they might one day grow less, you bloody werewolf you?) and the joyous relief that the morning's hunting gave, ebbs away.

"Bleak grey mood to match the bleak grey weather," and she hunches over to the nearest bookshelf. "Stow the book on cooking fish. Gimme something escapist, Narnia or Gormenghast or Middle Earth, or," it wasn't a movement that made her look up.

There is a gap between two tiers of bookshelves. Her chest of pounamu rests in between them, and above it, there is a slit window.

In the window, standing stiff and straight like some weird saint in a stained gold window, is a child. A thin shockheaded person, haloed in hair, shrouded in the dying sunlight.

The eyes are invisible. It is silent, immobile.

Kerewin stares, shocked and gawping and speechless.

The thunder sounds again, louder, and a cloud covers the last of the sunlight. The room goes very dark.

If it moves suddenly, it's going to go through that glass. Hit rockbottom forty feet below and end up looking like an imploded plum-

She barks,

"Get the bloody hell down from there!"

Her breathing has quickened and her heart thuds as though she were the intruder.

The head shifts. Then the child turns slowly and carefully round in the niche, and wriggles over the side in an awkward progression, feet ankles shins hips, half-skidding half-slithering down to the chest, splayed like a lizard on a wall. It turns round, and gingerly steps onto the floor.

"Explain."

There isn't much above a yard of it standing there, a foot out of range of her furthermost reach. Small and thin, with an extraordinary face, highboned and hollow-cheeked, cleft and pointed chin, and a sharp sharp nose. Nothing else is visible under an obscuration of silverblond hair except the mouth, and it's set in an uncommonly stubborn line.

Nasty. Gnomish, thinks Kerewin. The shock of surprise is going and cold cutting anger comes sweeping in to take its place.

"What are you doing here? Aside from climbing walls?"

There is something distinctly unnatural about it. It stands there

unmoving, sullen and silent.

"Well?"

In the ensuing silence, the rain comes rattling against the windows, driving down in a hard steady rhythm.

"We'll bloody soon find out," saying it viciously, and reaching for a shoulder.

Shove it downstairs and call authority.

Unexpectedly, a handful of thin fingers reaches for her wrist, arrives and fastens with the wistful strength of the small.

Kerewin looks at the fingers, looks sharply up and meets the child's eyes for the first time. They are seabluegreen, a startling colour, like opals.

It looks scared and diffident, yet curiously intense.

"Let go my wrist," but the grip tightens.

Not restraining violence, pressing meaning.

Even as she thinks that, the child draws a deep breath and lets it out in a strange sound, a groaning sigh. Then the fingers round her wrist slide off, sketch urgently in the air, retreat.

Aue. She sits down, back on her heels, way back on her heels. Looking at the brat guardedly; taking out cigarillos and matches; taking a deep breath herself and expelling it in smoke.

The child stays unmoving, hand back behind it; only the odd sea-eyes flicker, from her face to her hands and back round again.

She doesn't like looking at the child. One of the maimed, the contaminating-

She looks at the smoke curling upward in a thin blue stream instead.

"Ah, you can't talk, is that it?"

A rustle of movement, a subdued rattle, and there, pitched into the open on the bird boned chest, is a pendant hanging like a label on a chain.

She leans forward and picks it up, taking intense care not to touch the person underneath.

It was a label.

1 PACIFIC STREET WHANGAROA

PHONE 633 COLLECT

She turns it over.

Simon P. GILLAYLEY CANNOT SPEAK

"Fascinating," drawls Kerewin, and gets to her feet fast, away to the window. Over the sound of the rain, she can hear a fly dying somewhere close, buzzing frenetically. No other noise.

Reluctantly she turns to face the child. "Well, we'll do nothing more. You found your way here, you can find it back." Something came into focus. "O there's a sandal you can collect before you go."

The eyes which had followed each of her movements, settling on and judging each one like a fly expecting swatting, drop to stare at his bare foot.

She points to the spiral stairs.

"Out."

He moves slowly, awkwardly, one arm stretched to touch the wall all the way down, and she is forced to stop on each step behind him, and every time she stops, she can see him tense, shoulders jerking.

Lichen bole; glow-worms' hole; bonsai grove; hell, it seems like 15 miles rather than 15 steps-

She edges round him at the living room door, and collects his sandal from the hearth. It is coated with silvery flounder slime.

"Yours?"

There is a barely perceptible nod. He stares at her unblinking.

"Well, put it on, and go."

The rain's still beating down. She shrugs mentally. Serve him right.

He looks at the sandal in her hand, glances quickly at her face, and then, heart thumping visibly in his throat, sits down on the bottom step.

O you smart little bastard.

But she decides it is easiest to put the sandal on. Then push him out, bodily if need be.

"Give us your foot."

With the same fearful stare guarded care he has affected throughout, he lifts his foot five inches off the ground. Kerewin stares at him coldly, but bends down and catches his foot, and is halted by a hiss. It, sssing through his closed teeth, bubbles of saliva spilling to his lips.

She remembers the strained walk, and looks more closely, and in his heel, rammed deep, is something; and the little crater in the sandal comes back to mind. She shuts her eyes and, all feeling in her fingertips, grazes her hand light as air over the protrusion. It was wooden, old wood, freshbroken, hard in the soft child-callous. Already the flesh round it is hot.

"We jumped on something that bit," her voice mild as milk, and opens her eyes. The brat is squinting at her, his mouth sloped in a shallow upturned U.

"I suppose I can't expect you to walk away on that," talking to herself, "but what to do about it?"

Incongruously, he grins. It is a pleasant enough grin, but before it fades back into the considering U, reveals a gap bare of teeth on the left side of his jaw. The gap looks odd, and despite herself, she grins back.

"I can take it out before you go, if you want." He sucks in his breath, then nods. "It'll probably hurt."

"Okay then," hoping she has taken the tenor of the shrug rightly.

She gets bandage from the coffee-cupboard, a pair of needlenosed pliers from the knife-drawer, disinfectant from the grog cupboard.

"You better ahh tell your parents to get you a tetanus shot when you get home," picking up his foot again, conscious of the eyes, very conscious of pale knuckled fingers gripping her step.

She sets the pliers flush with the end of the splinter, carefully so as not to pinch skin. There's an eighth inch gap between the jaws when they're closed on the wood. She holds it a moment, setting aside every sensation beyond splinter, pliers, her grip, and then presses hard and pulls down in one smooth movement. An inch of angular wood slides out.

The child jerks but might be pulling against a fetter for all the effect it has. She scrutinises the hole before it closes and fills in bloodily. No dark slivers, clean puncture, should heal well; and becomes aware of the hissing and twisting and sets the foot free. The marks of her grip are white on his ankle.

"Sorry about that. I forgot you were still on the end of it. The foot I mean." With the careless suppleness of the young, he has his foot nearly on his chest. He broods over it, thumb on the splinter hole.

"Give it here again."

She swabs the heel with antiseptic, bandages some protective padding over it.

Sop for your conscience, Holmes me love. He can limp away easy into the rain.

She stands, gesturing towards the door.

"On your way now, Simon P. Gillayley."

He sits quite still, clasping his foot. Then he sighs audibly. He puts the sandal on, wincing, and stands awkwardly. He brushes away the long fringe of hair that's fallen over his eyes, looks at her and holds out his hand.

"I don't understand sign language," says Kerewin coolly. A rare kind of expression comes over the boy's face, impatience compounded with o-don't-give-me-that-kind-of-shit. He takes hold of his other hand, shakes it, waves tata in the air, and then spreads both hands palms up before her. Shaking hands, you get what I mean? I'm saying goodbye, okay? Then he holds out his hand to her again. Ratbag child.

She's grinning as she takes his hand, and shakes it gently. And the child smiles broadly back.

"You come here by yourself?"

He nods, still holding onto her hand.

"Why?"

He marches the fingers of his free hand aimlessly round in the air. His eyes don't leave her face.

"Meaning you were just wandering round?"

He doesn't nod, but makes a downward gesture with his hand.

"What does that mean?"

He nods, repeating the gesture on a level with his head.

"Shorthand for Yes?" unable to repress a smile.

Yes, say the fingers.

"Fair enough. Why did you come inside?"

She takes her hand away from his grasp. He has finely sinewed, oddly dry hands. He points to his eyes.

Seeing, looking, I suppose. She feels strange.

I'm used to talking to myself, but talking for someone else?

"Well, in case no-one ever told you before, people's houses are private and sacrosanct. Even peculiar places like my tower. That means you don't come inside unless you get invited."

He's looking steadily at her.

"Okay?"

The gaze drops. He takes out a small pad and pencil from his jeans pocket and writes.

He offers the page to her.

In neat and competent capitals… how old are you, urchin? I KNOW I GET TOLD SP

"And you keep on doing it? You're a bit of a bloody hard case, boy."

He is staring straight ahead now, eyes on the level of her belt buckle.

He gets told, meaning he must do it frequently… unholy, he's a bit young to be a burglar, maybe he's just compulsively curious?

"Well, there's a couple of cliches that fit in neatly here. One, curiosity killed the cat. Two, it takes all sorts to make a world. You want some lunch before you go? It might stop raining in the meantime-"

He looks up abruptly, and she is startled to see his eyes fill with tears.

What in the name of hell have I said that would make it cry?

He cripples over to the sheepskin rugs near the fire at her invitation. He sits down carefully, cradling his foot. She has a suspicion he is exaggerating his hurt.

"You like raw fry?"

Uhh? What?

Is his face really that easy to read, or am I just looking harder because he can't talk? Probably years of practice at non-verbal communication.

She wonders how many years. He looks as though he might be, ummm? She has no idea how old the brat looks. She hasn't ever had anything to do with children.

"Raw fry is vegetables and stuff, like bacon or eggs or fish, all cooked together. It tastes okay."

There's no obvious answer.

"Well," she says after a moment, aware now there is an appraisal of herself taking place, "that's all that's going. Like it or lump it."

I wonder if I still look peeculeear?

Heavy shouldered, heavy-hammed, heavy-haired.

No evidence of a brain behind those short brows.

Yellowed eyes, and eczema scarred skin.

Large hands and large feet, crooked only if you look closely.

Everything beautified by me knuckle-duster collection.

Today, greenstone water middlefinger; kingfisher glitter of opal

ringfinger; winedark garnet one little finger, turquoise stud

the other; and that barred charred looking silver hulking hunk

of thumbring.

Encased in jeans, leather jerkin, silk shirt, denim jacket, knife

at side, bare footed. (Which reminds me, they're cold.)

A right piratical-looking eschewball I suppose I look, but what

the hell.

Out with chopping board and cooking paraphernalia. She guts green peppers, slices hapless onions into tears. She is immune to the eyesting of onion juice

The click and squich of the knife cutting food.

Her breathing.

The steady downbeat of the rain.

The fire crackle.

It is unnaturally silent.

The gutter snipe still watches her, twisted and still like a small evil buddha.

"Urn, you expected back soon?"

He shakes his hair.

Your people know where you are, even?"

All the answer is a well-screened stare that sinks slowly down to his foot level. Mentally she balls fist and projects thumb. Figs to you, boyo.

There isn't a proper table in this level. The room is for eating in, sure, but also for listening to music, playing guitars, or quietly dreaming by the fire. Seawatching. Meditating. So, all the table is a dropleaf bench, attached to the wall. Sometimes she uses it for eating off: more often, she puts her plate on the floor by the fire. Now, she sets a knife and fork and plate of steaming hash at either end of the bench, and two mugs of coffee like a line of truce in the middle.

"If you want something to eat, it's here."

He arrives at the table with a stilted gait, eyes the food, eyes her, eyes the stool, and elects to kneel on the latter, head on one hand, eating from a fork in the other, ignoring his knife and herself. He eats neatly, with unchildlike precision and more quickly than she can. When he has finished, he pushes his plate to the middle of the bench, folds his arms, rests his head on them, and stares at her. A pair of seagreen eyes watching one from table-level is disconcerting, to say the least.

Kerewin sets her knife and fork down with a click! and ceremoniously lowers her head to table-level, and stares back.

The child's eyes widen.

She keeps on peering beadily across the table at him.

And the boy starts to giggle. A breathy spurt of chuckling that bubbles eerily out of him. He sits up straight, and pats the table, shaking his head.

"Good. I take it you've got the hint."

She calmly continues eating.

So he can giggle… I wonder what stops him from talking?

One of her family used to say,

"And the rain was fairly pissing down."

It conveyed exactly how the weather was,

"And ther rain" (shaking head slightly) "was fair-lee piss (grimace and smash fist through the air) "sing down" (eyes wide with surprise at the violence of the rain).

The gusto, the singsong level and fall of the speaker's voice made it real.

Anyway, she thinks, regretting again the gulf between her and her family, it is pissing down now. I better get some lamps out. The room is all shadows. She looks at the chance-guest, sprawled in front of the fire.

Made yourself thoroughly at home, haven't you, guttersnipe? Well, you're about to get the boot.

"Give us a look at that, that pendant you wear please? I want to check the phone number." He sits up. Six fingers, three fingers, three fingers again, and

a large airy Z. He waits, hands at the ready in case she hasn't understood.

"Thanks."

She's already at the radiophone.

It's her concession to the outside world, the radiophone. No one can ring her up unless they go through a toll-operator, kept by the Post Office especially for subscribers like herself, but she can ring anyone she likes. An expensive arrangement, but Kerewin has more money than she needs and likes privacy. Besides, while the toll-operators are busybodies, they can supply local information, especially one whom she's cultivated, and she values that.

"Hullo Miz Holmes."

"Morning," she says gravely. "A Whangaroa number please, 633Z. I assume it's a party line."

"It is," says the operator. After a minute he adds, "Dear me."

Click buzz whirp, and then a long series of monotonous burrs.

"Were they expecting you to ring?"

"Nope."

"O. Shall I keep the call in?"

"Just a minute." She winds the mike sound right down and asks the child, "That phone number is for your home?"

He nods, smiling a smug sage smile.

She brings the mike sound up again. "Keep it in please, and when someone answers, ask them to come out to Paeroa to collect something of theirs."

The operator laughs.

"Good luck," he says strangely, and hangs up.

Kerewin stares at the mike. All the world is a little queer except…. You going to have your coffee?" She asks without turning round.

A click.

O you icthyphagal numbskull," she leans against the stone wall, and looks at him.

'I forgot," she says, weary rather than apologetic. "I take it that's for attention?"

He shakes his head. His hair falls over his face, and he sweeps «out automatically. He inches off the sheepskins, and suddenly smiles.

An amerindian opening parley-

She hunkers down under the transceiver shelf and watches him. He shakes his head quickly, and snaps his fingers once. It is a

sharp crisp sound. She remembers that until she was ten, the only fingersnap she could make sounded like a boneless phup! no snap near it. The child nods and snaps his fingers twice.

Not a parley, a language lesson,

and she's tempted to snap her fingers three times and say Maybe.

"I get that. Out of sight communication with you is one for no and two for yes, am I right?" and snaps her fingers twice for emphasis.

He claps his hands together twice, deliberately, sarcastically.

Smartass, says Kerewin inside herself, grinning in an unfriendly way at him.

"Well, the coffee on the table will be cold by now. That's why I wanted to know whether you still wanted to drink it."

Snap.

"Okay. You want something else to drink? I have," counting off the list on her fingers, "wine and mead and sundry ales, beer and liqueurs and spirits, none of which you're getting. Water and milk and applejuice; limejuice, lemon and orange; cider of my own brewing, and teas, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and herbal of many kinds. So which?"

Coffee, he mouths, with exaggerated lip movements, Coff-feee, and the teeth-bare gap is there again.

Contrary little sod.

"You just said you didn't want any?"

He makes a series of corkscrew spirals near his ear.

"You're nuts or you change your mind? Don't answer, I agree with both interpretations… anyway, you've missed your only chance to try Holmes' famous herbal tea, a soporific manuka brew, foolish child. Actually," she says, getting up, "it tastes disgusting, but it's very useful if you're an insomniac."

His face shows, What the hell are you talking about?

"If you're projecting what I think you're projecting, boy, the answer is, obfuscation is my trade. I didn't get to be thirty odd and horridly rich by being intelligible, hokay?"

She's grinding a handful of coffee beans by now. The mill had belonged to a great great grandmother, who brought it all the way from the Hebrides a hundred years ago. When she parted, in violence and tears, from her family, she had made a special expedition

Call it by its right name, o my soul to gain the coffee-mill.

By thievery and stealth in the dead of the night, I acquired thee….

She ran her hand lightly over the little machine, and talked loud nonsense to cover her pain. The child sits, his eyes hooded, and doesn't make any response.

The rain hasn't eased.

The radiophone hasn't buzzed.

For a cat, when in doubt, wash: for a Holmes, ruffle a guitar.

She takes her oldest guitar down from the wall, and picks a series of delicate harmonics to check the tuning. Then, the body of the guitar cuddled into her, she plays wandering chords and long pure notes and abrupt plucked melodies. The music melds into the steady background white noise of the rain.

At the end of it, she sighs, and props the guitar against herself.

"Do you like guitar music, ahh, boy?"

His eyes are shut and his mouth is open, and she is unsure whether he is ecstatic or gone to sleep.

He blinks rapidly and nods, Yes.

"Mmmm." She lays the guitar down. "What do they call you incidentally? Surely not Simon P. Gillayley all the time?"

He shakes his head, and presents his forefingers straight out, about two inches apart.

She rubs her eyes ostentatiously.

"Yeah?"

The boy looks at her with disgust. His lips are pinched as though he's tasted something bad, and his nostrils are flared, eyes narrowed — and suddenly all expression is wiped. His face is a blank, a mask showing nothing, and his eyes are cold. I'm not talking to you. I don't like being played with. He turns his back on her.

Ratbag, smartass, and sulky with it. Kerewin shrugs, and picks up the guitar again.

Shall we be nasty and throw it out right now? Nah, our sense of hospitality won't stand for that… yet.

Once the guest has eaten and drunk at your table, the guest becomes tan. beggar or enemy, friend or chief, if they knock on your door,

if open; if they seek your shelter, it will be given, and if they ask for hospitality, give them your bread and wine… for who knows When you may need the help of a fellow human? Insure against the chance, and at least endure every miserable sulky dumb brat mat you happen to find in your windows… thrum, golpe, golpe, rasguedo, and she launches into an ersatz flamenco rhythm.

The rain responds by pissing down harder than ever.

She hangs the old guitar back on the wall, stroking its amber belly and wondering what to do next, and the radiophone buzzes.

"Hello?"

"About that number in Whangaroa you want…"

"Yes, yes?"

"Have you got Simon Gillayley there?"

A long pause while she reassembles her proposed conversation, Sir/Madam, your son is loitering in my tower and will you kindly remove the same-

"How the berloody hell did you know?"

He laughs drily.

"It happens often enough."

She throws a glance at the sullen little boy, still crouched back to her on the hearthskins.

"Ohhh."

"His father is out, y'know."

"I don't," says Kerewin shortly. "I never saw the brat until a couple of hours ago."

The operator giggles.

"You've missed a lot… anyway, I thought I'd better let you know in case there's trouble."

Pregnant pause.

And what bastard news comes forth?

"His father, Joe Gillayley, nice bloke incidentally, well, he won't be home till late. Guarantee it. If he gets home, that is."

She swallows. "I see."

"If I were you," the operator sounds happy he's not, "I'd ring Wherahiko Tainui and see if he or Piri'll come and pick up the boy."

"And what's this Wherahiko's number?"

"O, I've already tried it for you, and they're out at the moment too. Shall I give you a call when I raise them?"

Kerewin draws in her breath, "I-"

"Or would you like me to get them to ring you?"

"That would do, but…."

"Of course, it might be an idea to ring the police now. They know what to do…."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Nooo, on second thoughts…" the man taps his mouth piece. "Tell you what, whether I can get hold of the Tainuis or not I'll ring you before I go off at seven thirty. How'll that be?"

"Fine," says Kerewin, "but…."

"Rightio." Click.

What the hell do I do now?

She walks slowly to the window, frowning. Round all the arc of glass, trickling rivulets of rain. Outside, greyness, deep enough for twilight. At the horizon it is hard to see where the sea leaves off and the sky begins.

The police will know what to do? What am I sheltering? A criminal, some kind of juvenile delinquent? Hell, hardly… it doesn't look more than, than about, o five years old? It must be more than that, though. I'm ahem (polishing mental nails) exceedingly bright, and I didn't write coherently until I was seven — coherently enough for the adults to always understand what I mean, that is. But then again, I could talk. Vociferously.

A sudden gust slashes against the windows. I can hardly send him out in that.

Outside, the wind would be howling and hard. There is a stand of alien pines half a mile along the beach, and she can see them bending from here.

Something touches her thigh.

She spins round, viciously quick, her palms rigid and ready as knives.

The urchin has sprouted by her side, asking questions with all its fingers.

"Sweet apricocks and vilest excreta… boy, don't do that again."

It was like watching a snail, she thinks coldly. One moment, all its horns are out and it's positively sailing along its silken slime path, and the next moment… ooops, retreat into the shell.

The urchin has snatched its hands behind its back and is standing fearful and still.

"Ahh hell," says Kerewin, her actor's voice full of friendship, "it is just that I get easily surprised by unexpected contacts eh. Besides, I couldn't follow what you were saying… if you make everything nice and simple and slow, even snailbrains like myself might gather what you mean. See?"

It may have been the genuine amusement in her voice that fooled it, for the horns come out again. Only this time he looks at her carefully while he gestures. Seven fingers spread briefly, and then one hand describes fluid circles.

"Umm, meaning?"

The child sighs. His hands writhe together a moment, then he shakes his shoulders, and reluctantly takes out his pad and pencil again.

We don't seem to like doing this.

He writes quickly, pad on foot-propped-up thigh: he stands remarkably steady on his uninjured foot.

In the darkened room, his eyes have lost their opal brilliance. They scan Kerewin's unmoving face as she reads.

TAINUIS HOME AT SEVEN I AM MEANT TO BE THERE CAN I STAY HERE SP (Simon)

She grins at the underlining. She says, quite kindly,

"Thanks for the explanation. I've got a message out for your father to come and get you, so I dare say he'll be here shortly. And no, you can't stay. I'm not keen on anyone staying here, particularly children."

The boy sits down, right where he'd stood.

She gathers the dishes and stacks them in the sink. She goes and sits down under the portrait that dominates the room. She lights a cigarillo, and starts talking to herself.

"Once I had to work at horrible jobs to earn enough money to buy food to eat in order to live to work at horrible jobs to earn enough… I hated that life, I hated it to my bones. So I quit. I did what my heart told me to do, and painted for my living. I didn't earn enough to live on, but I wasn't too unhappy, because I was loved at home and I loved what I was doing. Money was the only problem… then it all changed. I won a lottery. I invested it. I earned a fortune by fast talking. And while I was busy blessing the god of munificence, the lightning came. It blasted my family, and it blasted my painting talent. I went straight out of one bind into a worse one. Very strange. I never could understand why-"

She leans back against the wall, and knocks the edge of the portrait.

"That is an enlargement of a painting by Fujiware Takanobu. He was a genius, who could capture a soul in limning and pigment, and do this in such an ascetically elegant way that the heart stands still to see it… one time, I could do something like that. Not any more, o child, not any more-"

She doesn't look at the boy.

"I am in limbo, and in limbo there are no races, no prizes, no changes, no chances. There are merely degrees of endurance, and endurance never was my strong point." She adds a moment later, casually conversational, "I'm just gonna stick on some socks and shoes before my toes drop off. Then I think I'll light some lamps. You think it's getting too dark?"

O god if there is one, running up the spiral to the bedroom, careless of the cold — and the hard knock of the stone steps against her feet, get rid of that child. I need my peace. I need to get drunk.

She longs for the Gillayley father to arrive and carry off his offspring, right now. A loud and boisterous Viking type she'd bet, from the child's colouring. Yer rowdy Aryan barbarian, face like a broken crag, tall as a door, and thick all the way through.

She slips on thin leather kaibabs over woollen socks, and when the numbness of her feet has warmed to prick and needle sensations, walks silently back down the stairs.

The child is now sitting in front of the portrait of Minamoto-no-Yoritomo, and he's looking at it fixedly. He doesn't shift as she softfoots it into the room.

«

Ah to hell, I'll start drinking anyway.

"Crystal goblets, earthen cups," meandering over to the grog cupboard as she chants, "juice of grape, or squshed hop?"

She settles on stout, opening a couple of bottles with her knife, flicking the tops into the sink. Bugger the dishes, they'll be there tomorrow. She pours a schooner full, and settles back on the sheepskins.

(Momentarily, she sees the chain at the freezing works where fresh-killed sheep carmine-throated, are grotesquely hooded by their own skins. The skins slip along the floor as the white carcasses jerk and sway above them on the moving hooks… what deaths to occasion your comforts?)

and takes a deep swallow of stout.

It goes down, bitter as bile.

"Have to stoke the fire soon." It has settled into a red bed of embers.

"Light the lamps soon too."

There's a scratching noise, lighter than a mouse-scrabble but still heard over the rain. The boy is writing again.

She turns round a bit, nonchalantly, so she can see the child if she wants to.

"Becomes a ritual, eh? Build wood and coal into a fire. Care for the wick in the lamp and grow a light from kerosene."

The urchin has sidled crabwise closer. He's waiting to see whether she is going to notice him.

Kerewin turns round a bit more.

"You brought me a message?"

'I'll TONIGHT PERHAPS. 'I'll JOE COMES PERHAPS. CAN I HAVE A DRINK PERHAPS. SP

Wonder what the latest word we've learned is?

She grins inwardly but says, "Of stout?" astonished and puritan and also dodging the issue.

The boy nods, looking surprised at her tone of voice.

"Well, okay then I suppose."

She finishes her glassful with a hurried swallow and pours him a drink.

A twelve ounce schooner should stop you, my lad, and again the inward grin, this time mean with anticipation.

Over he comes, hitching along the floor, crawling actually like he's half his age, with a smile in place that lacks even a vestige

of embarrassment. The bandage shows startlingly white under the frayed jeans cuff. Good as your remaining teeth boyo. Thin-fingered hands round the glass — so you still need two for drinking a full one, eh? Split chin upwards, and the dark grog practically seen outside your skinny throat… what's the mark? Pink and satin-shiney, like a scar.

She fingers the two scar-like lines that run in parallel across her own throat, while staring in awe as the child keeps on swallowing and swallowing, downing the drink without needing a breath it seems.

He lowers the glass at last and grins hugely.

"Something tells me," says Kerewin, fascinated, "that that is not your first drink. I think I better get another glass for me, and you can keep that for your own." She fetches a mug and another two bottles from the cupboard.

"Well," raising the mug in a loose salute, "kia ora koe, and we might as well have a session."

Glass to glass, chink.

The boy chokes a little.

Kerewin staring at air rising in the black depth of her drink:

"Why do you want to stay tonight? Aside from the fact it's raining?"

Gillayley: shrug.

"Write it down dammit, if you can't think of any other way to say it. A shrug tells me nothing."

He looks slyly sideways, away from her eyes.

"Well?"

Gillayley: sigh. Followed by a hiccough.

He hears the sound with an expression of pained surprise.

She collars the last of the bottles of stout, and watches him from under her lids.

I'll be hellishing popular if I send it home drunk.

"I'll put it another way then… why don't you want to stay with the Tainuis, whoever they are, for the night?"

SHE PETS ME AND CRY FOR JOE SP

"You needn't sign these damn things. I can see who they come from… pets you? Who?

MARAMA. SHE KISS ME AND she's leaning, watching over his shoulder now,

"I know, cry for Joe… ah sheeit, archetypical small boy distaste! I love it, I love! Ah beautiful!"

Hey easy, a couple of bottles of stout shouldn't cause that much mirth… but look at his face, delicious! Careful, now he's looking at you like you were kind of nutty-

She sobers. She says straightfaced,

"I'm sorry, but that just seemed funny… now I understand, and sympathise a little. I don't like people kissing and fussing over me either. Can you tell me when Joe — uh, he's your father?"

Groggy nods.

"When Joe is likely to be home?"

Obligingly, the urchin writes a clear answer.

NO. SP

The initialling is obviously a reflex.

"Well, unless your father arrives first, you can stay here until the Tainuis ring. Okay?"

His hand comes out, pauses, and then as if reaching over a barrier, takes her hand. How touching, says Kerewin's innermost being, the Snark, squirming through a gamut of connotations, that and the guileless Gillayley smile. Too much.

"Agreed then. Sooo, it's about lamplighting time, not to mention fire-resuscitation. You want to help? You can uh, hold things," removing her hand but gently.

As she collects kerosene and lamps, putting much into the child's ready arms, she considers two things.

Is it better the devil you don't know?

Or simply, variety is the spice of life?

And she wants to know more and more, the halloween pumpkin grin renewing the query every minute, how the brat comes to lack teeth on one whole side of his jaw.

The lamps are hung, hissing quietly: she gets busy on the fire, piling logs and heaping coal on top. The coal dust flares and crackles, and all the shadows in the room retreat to the corners.

For the first time she can see the child clearly. Slender and prominently boned, his smallness making him seem frail. A sallowness about his face, a waxen depth that accentuates the bruise marks of tiredness under his eyes, and the narrowness of his face.

Hey where you been? Watch you been doin?

For, as he stands there waiting on her next move or gesture so he may make his reciprocal offering, all the vivacity has gone out of him.

My god, he really is desperately tired.

Well, the long walk — if he walked here.

The tension of being caught, and wondering what I would do.

The drink of course.

And maybe all this is like a fine drawn duel to him, words

against his miming.

"You're tired, Simon?"

He examines the question, screwing his head into his shoulders, and nodding once.

Yes, more than tired.

"Well, why not go to bed until someone calls?"

He even starts to droop wearily, but he frowns. Yes, again, but it's given reluctantly.

"My bedroom's upstairs. You can use it for a while. This way," and she vanishes up the dark spiral.

She don't like me around much. I'm staying though.

He stands still a minute, gathering his strength for the long walk up the stairs.

A spiral staircase can be surprising, because you can't see more than a step and a half in front. Kerewin, coming rapidly back down to find out anything that may have happened, nearly knocks the child all his slow progress back.

"Whoops and hie," grasping the handrail to halt herself. "I wondered where you'd got to."

He looks to his foot, and up again, apologetically.

"Well, keep going, the trek'll soon be over." She edges carefully past him. "It's colder up here than I thought. I'm going down to get you a hottie."

This godzone babytalk. Hottie lolly cardie nappy, crappy the lot of it, she snarls to herself. But what to say that the kid'd recognise? I'm gonna get you a bedheating hotwater bottle?

She's back with it as the boy arrives at the doorway.

"Go in, then. It's not as bad as it looks."

Actually, she is proud of this room. The bed and roofbeams are hand-adzed totara, and the floor is covered with palecream sheepskins. There is a double-windowed oriel, and the glass is a shallow summer sea, aquamarine and pale beryl green. A lot of leaded panes like jewels. One could sit on the broad sill and absorb sun and sea alone.

"Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam of perilous seas," she quotes blandly, seeing his star? fixed on the window. "I'd open them and show you a forlorn fairy or something except you'd probably die of pneumonia soon after."

Silence. "Well," she says, "here's the hotwater bottle, there's the bed. Get under the eiderdown.on top, you should be okay. The toilet is through that door," pointing, "you want anything else?"

The child shakes his head numbly.

It hasn't taken long for the rot to set in. Suggest I know he's tired, and he's ready on the instant to flake.

"Right. If you do, come downstairs and ask; otherwise, I'll come up and wake you round seven. Sweet dreams meantime," and she walks slowly out the door but speeds down the stairs.

"Ahhh," stretching long and hard, "peace and tranquillity."

Freedom from overseeing eyes.

It is now early evening, dark sky outside studded with rain-washed stars. The rain has eased to a thin drizzle.

She drinks another bottle of stout, but her hands become restless. She gets down her golden guitar, and plays low languorous chords, watching the night grow deeper all the while.

But she keeps on listening with one ear for any sound from upstairs.

Blast the brat, he's beginning to haunt me.

An enemy inside my broch… a burglar ensconced here.

and it suddenly occurs to her that the child may really have been stealing and has been playing for time ever since.

God o Hell, my jade.

Ahh, come on!

He's not old enough to know greenstone from greywacke.

But what say someone else has heard about it, some local brand of Fagin, and-

She lays down the guitar and pads swiftly upstairs.

Past her bedroom. Listen. Not a sound.

Into the library.

There's a drawing light on the desk. She takes it to the full extent of its cord, and shines the light onto the chest. She opens the lid, her heart thudding. On trays in the pale pool of light, a hundred smooth and curvilinear shapes.

Two meres, patu pounamu, both old and named, still deadly.

Many stylised hook pendants, her matau.

Kuru, and kapeu, and kurupapa, straight and curved neck

pendants.

An amulet, a marakihau; and a spiral pendant, the koropepe.

A dozen chisels. Four fine adzes.

Several her tiki, one especial — so old that the flax cord of

previous owners had worn through the hard stone, and the

suspension hole had had to be rebored in times before the Pakeha

ships came.

A very strange pendant she had picked up long ago on Moerangi

beach. As always her hand goes to it, stroking it, I am here,

I am here.

Jade of my heart, your names a litany of praise; kahurangi;

kawakawa; raukaraka; tangiwai; auhunga, inanga, kahotea;

totoweka and ahuahunga

It's all there.

She derides herself, You idiot, did you really think that, that scarecrow would pinch your precious hoard? Ea, you ought to give the berloody lot away….

She says softly,

"It's becoming too precious. Too important. To care for anything deeply is to invite disaster."

She picks up the curious pendant one last time, to fondle and admire before she goes downstairs.

At seven precisely the radiophone buzzes. The operator answers her "Gidday, and Hooray" with "Miz Holmes, there's been some kind of holdup."

"O," a sinking premonitory feeling in her stomach.

"Yeah, I been doing some quiet checking up. The Tainuis left for over the hill early this morning by all accounts, and Simon Gillayley was supposed to be with them."

"Bloody hell," says Kerewin, "but his father? His mother? Anyone?"

"Lessee, Hana died two, maybe three years ago. If Joe's not around, the Tainuis usually are."

"And Joe isn't around?"

A long pause.

"No," he says, and she can hear him chewing his lips. "Ah, has there been any trouble?"

"No, I fed him, he sat round, and then went off to bed at my suggestion. He seemed helluva tired. I assume he's still there."

A current of surprise wafts to her.

"I take it he takes off fairly frequently?"

"O Periodically," the operator's tones are restrained, "like about twice a week."

"Sol got the impression you are surprised by something?"

"Yeah, when you said there's been no trouble. There always is. The kid's got a touchpaper temper. Also, he specialises in sneak thievery and petty vandalism."

A little break of silence while she absorbs that lot.

"And," adds the operator, "it's well known he's not all there. Emotionally disturbed or something."

"Well, he's been no trouble so far." She feels somehow defensive of the child.

"Lucky you," and there's another pause. He says, "As I see it, you've got alternatives. You can ring the cops and have him picked up. That makes life hard for Joe, and as I said, he's a good bloke. It can't be easy bringing up a kid on your own, even the ordinary kind… I don't think the police have come into it since Simon tramped all Mrs Hardy's lettuces to death. Or you can keep him there until morning, say late morning, because I guarantee Joe'll be up and

I

about by then. And choice number three, throw him out on his ear right now."

"It's still wet," she says briefly. Then, intrigued, "Why on earth did he stamp on Mrs Whatsit's lettuces?"

"I don't know. Can't have liked their faces or something. As I said, the kid's batty. Deficient."

"So I don't really have alternatives?"

"If he's no trouble, your words, and you're too humanitarian to kick him out or get the police in, no, you haven't got much choice."

"Not humanitarian, worried about my lettuces… actually the slugs got all the last lot so it doesn't upset me one way or the other."

"Well, in that case I'll leave a note for the graveyard shift to get hold of Joe, and if you sleep in late, you shouldn't have anything to worry about."

"Thanks."

"And listen, Joe'll make everything right by you. He's good like that."

"Yeah. Thanks again."

"S'all right," says the operator, cheerful and kindly, "Let's know what happened sometime eh?"

"I will. Goodnight."

"Goodnight… O…."

"What?"

"Check your silver," click.

Ha bloody ha. I'll just turn the brat upside down and shake him thoroughly before he leaves.

And speaking of leaving, the stout is due to exit.

Running up the dark stairway, surefooted, lightheaded, giddy in the spiral between the walls-

Her original plan had included a garderobe, but there'd been problems. A convenient stream was one, the stench another. Let Genet sniff his farts like flowers, she preferred other incense. So a modern watercloset flush in the medieval stone-

She sneaks to her bedroom doorway: there is a curled shape dimly visible on the bed.

No movement. No sound. She cannot hear any breathing.

A sudden absurd fear, that the unwelcome guest has somehow changed into an even more unwelcome corpse, grips her. Stupid! she says furiously, Stupid! She stalks down the stairs, shoulders high, still listening intently.

Frae ghosties an ghoulies

an longlegged beasties

an things that gae bump!

in the night,

guid God deliver us-

"Stupid," she tells herself out loud, when safely in the light and warm of the livingroom circle.

But what would you have done if he really had died? Forget him. He'll go away with the morning.

She has no appetite for food now. She hunts out the sleeping bag she had last used during Tower-building, and gets ready to go to sleep.

But she sits a long time, staring at the fire.

"Of all the daft days… fit for the logbook, I think."

She takes it from the bottom shelf of the grog cupboard, and dreams what to put in it.

The pages are mainly blank, because there are 1000 pages. There are no headings, dates, day names. She has filled in some pages at random with doodles and sequences of hatching. Small precise drawings and linked haiku. Some days were a solitary word. "Hinatore" says one, "Nautilids!" another.

She notices the child's battered sandal by the andirons and draws it with careful realism on a page she marks "Today."

Then she lies back in the sleeping bag, hands behind her head, and listens a long time to the rain-

in

Between waking and being awake there is a moment full of doubt and dream, when you struggle to remember what the place and when the time and whether you really are.

A peevish moment of wonderment as to where the real world lies.

And there is nothing so damned and godforsaken, thinks Kerewin, as to wake up looking at a pile of dead ashes.

Not only looking at: practically in. With some atavistic instinct her body had moved closer and closer to the only source of heat as the room grew colder during the night.

Interesting if the whole lot had caught fire, eh. Immolated Holme in more ways than one… what would burn though? me; the matting probably; shelves and grog and the records and stereo; cupboards; o precious guitars — and then the stone walls would stop it going further. But a fine contained inferno. A private introductory malbowge.

She shudders and crawls out into the cold.

What a mental inventory to make — the worldly goods to accompany the cremation to Valhalla — and at the hellish time of

and she suddenly remembers, standing naked and shivering and glowering at the world, the guest. The vandal, the vagabond, the wayward urchin, the scarecrow child — six thirty three ay em.

It is dark outside still. The moon glows palely, slewed away in the west. And through the thickness of the Tower walls, she can feel frost.

Aue and ach y fi, the cold and my chilblains. And that bloody little bugger upstairs. All miseries hemming me in together.

"Sheeit and apricocks," says Kerewin to the immune walls, and gathers her clothes on, hustles them on, and sneezes and shivers her way to the shower room.

Somewhat warmer, cleaner, and altogether more self-possessed — that is herself some twenty minutes later. Now venturing into her bedroom with the same lightstepping care she would use on looking into a taniwha cave.

"Brushing the embers out of my hair and whistling merrily," she announces, "it's me."

She can hear breathing, but the boy's idea of a comfortable bed was to pile the quilt in a heap and crawl somewhere inside the centre. She can't see any part of him.

"To unearth anything, we begin by digging," but she isn't very keen on the idea.

"Hey! You there?"

No answer. No movement.

So she untangles the end of the eiderdown and pulls it away.

He sleeps, pale and quiet, his mouth open. The small angular face no longer looks tight and strained. He sleeps in a strange twisted fashion, head turned to one side, body warped round. He also sleeps with his clothes on, sandal and all.

— His eyes slide under their lids side to side, and open. His arm comes over abruptly, shielding his chest, and the other wraps across his face in an instant.

Then, out of his unsure second, he lowers his arms, looking surprised and sheepish all in the one face.

"Well, good morning, and where did you learn that luverly block?"

The boy raises his eyebrows for an answer, disclaiming knowledge. The bruiselike shadows under his eyes have deepened to mauve.

"Did you have a good sleep? Or are nightmares catching?"

He smiles.

"Mmm. Well anyway, in case you're wondering, it's tomorrow, the Tainuis are safely over the hill, your father is picking you up sometime this morning, and what do you want for breakfast?"

From hearsay, children wallow in milk. She considers her normal breakfast, black coffee and yoghurt, while watching something like

guilt slide across his face and vanish, and composes a list of alternatives.

"You like, say, porridge? Coffee? Milk? Fruit? Blackpuddingeggsanonions?"

He nods to the lot, sitting up now and holding his hands with the fingers spread out.

God knows what it's trying to say, but she answers,

"Hokay, so you'll be eating for a month of Sundays."

He leans back on his elbows and yawns a yawn that is partly sighed.

"I'll leave you to get up then. You know where the bathroom is. I'll be down on the next floor, doing exciting things like lighting the fire and burning the breakfast."

He looks at her uneasily. As she goes out the door, he clicks his fingers.

"A yes? Or what?"

He pantomimes while she ponders aloud, "Sleep? Definitely sleep… okay, did I sleep? Nope? Where did I sleep? Nope? O, did I have a good sleep?"

Impatient fingers, Yes, Yes, Yes.

"I did, o politeness-impersonated. Aside from the penitential part," and leaves him to consider that.

The only time she regretted having a range was now, early on a cold morning facing a grate full of ash. So much easier to flick switches… she loathes all the cold iron frame of it until the fire is lit and it begins to live again.

Upstairs, Simon is thinking. What does she talk like that for? To fool me? and shakes his head in exasperation. Kerewin's multisyllables were, for the main part, going straight in one ear and out the other, leaving behind an increasing residue of strange sounds and bewilderment.

What does that mean, penitential?

"That's the penitentiary, you. So watch it."

Joe to Luce: "Tell him you mean jail. And it's not for you,

tama."

But he couldn't place or connect that either. He kneels for some minutes on the end of the bed, trying to dredge up more past conversation that contained the word, but that's the only bit that sounds similar. So he gives up, and limps down the stairs, more mindful of his heel than when he had first slid out of bed and kept going straight on down with the shock of impact.

She made a thick oatmeal porridge that bubbled and klopped like a waking mudpool; fried half a loop of black pudding and two onions and several eggs in butter; made coffee and toast with quick and

careless efficiency; then loaded the lot in assorted hot plates and bowls and mugs onto the dropleaf bench.

"Eat."

She is a slow and methodical eater, not from convictions regarding health but because she enjoys food of all kinds immensely. Save for offal: humble pie ain't for her eating. Brain, tripe, liver and guts

— nuts to 'em. But o for the black blood pudding and the merry

kidney stew!

The boy finishes before she does again, ducks his head and eyes her over his arms again, but this time he grins as he does it.

And maybe it is because it is a new day with the sun just coming up, but the annoying nature of his presence has faded. Despite herself, she becomes involved in a conspiracy of smiles.

Which is bloody stupid. But then again, a smile doesn't cost that much, and he's not a bad looking goblin.

She starts washing dishes, slinging him a teatowel. "Here, payment for board," fervently hoping his minor speciality won't manifest itself. But he does dishes very well, spending long careful moments doing clusters of soap bubbles to death, and not dropping a single cup.

Kerewin sits smoking, crosslegged by the fire, watching her smokerings dissolve over the still spread form of the boy,

who is thinking, not half so much asleep as he seems, It looks like someone tried to cut her throat.

What the hell have you done to your hair? Kerewin thinks. Nothing, I'll bet. Snarled, entangled, a ravelment. Slept in, obviously.

Almost telepathically, he lifts a hand, becomes absorbed in combing a knot out with his fingers.

"You want to wear it like sailors used to," says Kerewin suddenly. "In a queue, tied at the back of your neck." Tightly.

He grins in the crook of his arm.

"I'm going to have a wander round my garden. See how the weeds are doing."

The room is warm, and lightening all the time, but once out of it, the chill comes seeping into her. Downstairs, the very air feels frozen. She pushes open the door, and looks out on a whitened world.

A bird hops on the hardened grass, and the hopping is audible. She can hear the grass blades snap. It is perfectly still everywhere.

There is a raw smell, like smoke, in the air. Every inhalation catches in the throat, and stings the soft lining in her nostrils.

A soft shuffling creep, and Simon stands in the doorway beside her, cloaked in her jerkin. His left sandal is on, but unbuckled, and slops with every step.

"You'd be better back by the fire."

He sniffs.

She shrugs, and walks to the nearest piece of garden, stands, thumbs in belt, kicking the rockhard earth.

"About ten degrees," she estimates.

The ground looks less frosted by the manuka hedge. Everything appears as though it will survive. She culled out two days ago, leaving only what she thought were plants accorded to the season. Not sacrificially, either.

She catches the glint of his hair out of the corner of her eye; Simon, hopping in the frost, laying tracks in the glitter, dark dead grass steps for tomorrow.

"Be careful! Go…" as he inevitably skids "easy," she says belatedly, watching him pick himself up.

Not a sound. Not a whoop of dismay or pain. Just her breathing, and his.

Not a prepossessing sight, this silent child: hair a bunch of tangles, fingers chilled orange and blue, and his nose running with the cold. Swaying somewhat drunkenly as he attempts to put his sandal on, shivering so his teeth chatter.

She retrieves her jerkin and drapes it over his shoulders.

"Come on. I think we'd better go inside again. There's nothing much to look at this time of the year anyway."

From the jarred look on his face, she gathers the fall hurt his dignity more than anything else.

"O, and a handkerchief," amused and revolted by him at the same time.

He wipes his nose cursorily with her handkerchief and pockets it.

From the bright chill outside to the chill gloom inside, and up the dank stairway.

The boy goes up each step cautiously, bringing both feet to a standstill before he ventures to the next step.

Bloody hell, brat, life might be a death march, but do you have to make it so obvious?

The clock on the wall shows just after eight. Late morning, the operator said, so there's hours to go yet-

"What'd you like to do? Play draughts or something?"

He frowns. He blows what looks like a silent raspberry.

Her turn to frown, "Ah, wait a minute, I have it. No, it's a game, not a wind… if you don't know it, we won't play it. I thought you might, and it's the only childish thing I have a board for. What do you know in the way of games then?"

He shakes his head forlornly.

"Hell, you must know one or two. I mean, I've come a couple

of decades since childhood and I still remember dozens. You're still mired in the state, damn it."

He stares. Not rudely; apologetically.

"Well, would you like to learn chess? That's a game I like, and I think you will too."

After all, the Russians teach their babies to play-

The green in his eyes seems to be ebbing out of them, leaving them dark blue holes.

He raises both hands in the air, a strange gesture of surrender, and lets them fall.

Although close to the fire, he's shivering.

What in the names of all gods and little fishes is the matter?

She shakes chess from her mind and looks down at him.

A pair of dilapidated sandals, brown, left foot holed and losing its buckle strap; jeans, denim, once green, now worn to a dun no-colour in most places. Frayed at the cuffs, and torn on the left inner leg;

elastic belt, dark green, missing buckle decoration. Ineptly put on leaving out two belt loops;

a t-shirt, originally cream or white presumably, although they might make them that off shade of grey (and the rest of you could do with a wash too, boyo);

and then there's this flannel shirt, grey and thinnish, with no cuff buttons.

That outfit can't be overly warm, even with some ounces of hair to help.

He stares her scrutiny out, bleakly.

She picks up her jerkin, laid on the table by the child when they re-entered the room, and throws it at him.

"Put that on for a while, eh? And would you like a coffee before I start to teach you chess? It was a bit cold out there, huh?"

She saw I am cold She saw I am cold

He is exultant with the attention. The defensive tautness of his face eases, and his smile is soft and incredibly young.

Brilliant, touchingly grateful, and toothless, she thinks, grinning back to him, but blinking at the age the smile seems to reveal him as.

I am in her jacket to warm, he croons inside himself,

She saw I am cold

and I am in her jacket to warm.

It runs through his mind like a refrain. Warmness begins to seep back into him, easing the terrible ache, relaxing him like a drug.

"Hey!" calls Kerewin, and whistles, a piercing sound like a shepherd calling his dog.

The boy sits up suddenly, shaking his head.

"Oath, I do believe you were nearly asleep," and Simon grins sheepishly, clutching the mug of coffee to him.

She sets out the chessmen, naming them as she does, and demonstrating the move of each piece. She is patient and gentle, intent on sharing the pleasure the game gives her. Over the chessboard she is completely relaxed: the barriers of unequal intellect, and the child's dumbness, have ceased to exist. He is a person to whom she is teaching chess, and the thing that matters is that he enjoys his initiation.

He picks up the moves of bishop and rook, king and queen, in what seems to her like a surprisingly short time. But the way a pawn captures, and the eccentricity of the moving knight befuddle him.

"No, one ahead, and one to the side," showing the move for the fifth time. There is a scraping sound behind her. She swings round to it, and freezes.

The man standing in the doorway smiles benignly.

"Sorry to creep up on you like that, eh. I banged on your door the last five minutes till it swung open, but nobody came. So I just came up, hearing the voice."

He is a thin little man, with large brown eyes. He stands at ease, watching over her shoulder as the boy gets to his feet.

"James Piripi Tainui," he says, not looking quite at her. "Piri, they call me." He lifts his hands. "Come here you. You're for the high jump, I think."

Kerewin says slowly, not at all friendly,

"I was expecting his father. I was told the Tainuis were all over in Christchurch. And it's one helluva early."

The man smiles, a pink gummed grin, gentle and considering.

"Haimona, do some explaining eh."

The boy folds his arms and spits on the floor.

Piri Tainui groans.

"Here we go again," he says, "Look Himi, Joe's in bed and I just come home last night. There's this bloke on the phone at some horrible hour saying you're round at that queer place, excuse me, on the Paeora beach, and someone's to pick you up. Well, Joe's out cold, it's got to be me. Don't make things difficult, Himi."

Kerewin frowns, Himi? O probably transliteration for Sim but where've I heard it?

Piri turns to her, hands beseeching aid.

"Lady, I don't know who you are, but thank you for keeping him the night Joe'll be round later to make things right, eh, but he can't come now. I thought I had better get here first thing in case there was any trouble. Sorry it's so early."

"There's been no trouble." Her frown vanishes. She stands up, holding out her hand.

"My name's Kerewin Holmes, Kerewin or Kere is what I get called. I'm glad you've come, early or not," and Piri shakes her hand murmuring Howd'y'do? and still not looking right at her.

She turns to the child.

"Well, it looks like someone else is going to have to finish teaching you that game. You left anything behind?"

The small face turns masklike. He shakes his head briefly, and shoves his hands deep into the pockets of his jeans, strolling across the floor to Piri Tainui with only the suggestion of a limp.

Faker.

But she shrugs.

"Been nice knowing you, Simon Gillayley," and belatedly offers Piri a coffee. He shakes his head, still smiling, still avoiding her eyes. He says to Simon,

"Say thank you to the lady eh," and the boy flashes her a brash smirk.

"That's all?" asks the man, and the child turns fast and angrily on him, digging two fingers veed in an obscene gesture at his face.

Piri doesn't move. "E, it's not that bad," he says, very quiet, very gentle, then picks him up.

"Well thank you," he says, stroking the boy. Simon's face is unreadable, still as stone, as though it is frozen.

"That's okay. Sorry you haven't got time for a coffee," leading the way downstairs.

Across her bridge she can see a car.

"You got here all right, no bogging down?" making polite conversation as they walk over the frozen lawn. "I keep on meaning to get that track graded, but you know how it is."

"O yeah. It was a good trip though. No trouble at all." Okay, well we'll see you again some time, Mr Tainui. Thanks for coming." The man grins elfinly. Goodbye Simon."

he boy gets woodenly into the car, making no gesture of farewell.

Berloody stuff yourself then, thinks Kerewin as the car drives on. Good riddance, you sullen little creep.

us when she's putting the chess pieces away that she notices the boy has left his sandal behind.

And taken the black queen.

2. Feelers

On the floor at her feet was an engraved double-spiral, one of the kind that wound your eyes round and round into the centre where surprise you found the beginning of another spiral that led your eyes out again to the nothingness of the outside. Or the somethingness: she had never quite made her mind up as to what a nothingness was. Whatever way you defined it, it seemed to be something.

The spiral made a useful thought-focus, a mandala, anyway.

She brought her eyes back to it, and reread a letter in her mind. Written on pale pink paper, unfranked envelope and no stamp, the whole therefore delivered by hand. Envelope and paper the same genteel pink: the best matched stuff for refusing invitations and writing duty letters.

The writing was firm and flowing. Nicely sloped, easy to read, looked curiously delicate. Small' letters and the pink paper maybe made for that impression. A prim hand.

Dear Ms Homes,

(a fair enough phonetic rendering of her name, presumably extracted from the urchin)

Thank you very much for looking after my son this weekend. His impromptu 'visits' seldom have such a happy result. He enjoyed himself so much that he has indicated he'd like to return!

Hell hell. Hell.

But I would naturally obtain your opinion and permission first. And you'll get the opinion all right.

I'm deeply obliged to you, and I would welcome any opportunity to help you in any way. I should like to convey my thanks in person. Would it be convenient for me to come and see you this evening? If not, would you please ring Whangaroa 633Z? Otherwise, I look forward to meeting you.

Joseph N. Gillayley.

No flourishes in the signature. Joseph N. Gillayley, what sort of person, he?

Joseph Nothing Gillayley.

Literate. Tidyminded. Widower, said the operator. With a kooky child. A right stubborn illnatured mess of a child.

Only,

"You're for the high jump," the little man had said. And,

"Joe is out cold," or words to that effect.

Put "tidyminded" with "drink" and you get the rigid dignity-on-a-high-horse that intensely dislikes anything or anyone getting out of the way. The dedicated drinker of this sort never gets messily drunk. Nastily, but not messily.

Focus the picture again. Not a roaring Viking. A pale cold-eyed man who expects too much of his offspring so the offspring goes defensively wild.

The long hair didn't fit, though. Nor did the scarecrow appearance. Nor the maternal sympathy, ease-up child, the little man showed. Or the boy's readiness to get near a stranger.

A small dry hand, with fine sinews, long fingers, she remembered.

He liked it here? Hah! Though the man could hardly write, "My son loathed your cooking and was contemptuous of your resentfully given hospitality so can I come and tell you so?" even supposing the boy could indicate that.

To ring or not to ring?

Envision the breeder from the bred, and find if the reality corresponded with the vision?

Hmmm.

She stared at the spiral.

It was reckoned that the old people found inspiration for the double spirals they carved so skilfully, in uncurling fern fronds: perhaps. But it was an old symbol of rebirth, and the outward-inward nature of things-

Half an hour of your time, my sweet soul. That would be all. You might even learn something new.

She doodled a finger in the centre of the spiral.

You might, says the inner voice, find out where guttersnipe Gillayley lost half his teeth. And get your queen back into the bargain.

"True," says Kerewin, "I might at that."

"This evening" by Gillayley time, was half past six.

She hears the crunch of gravel through one slit window. It has been a dreary and tiring afternoon, pinching clay, punching clay, trying to make a worthwhile shape. Nothing grows under her anxious hands. She feels empty and sour.

To hell, why didn't I ring and say No? Perhaps I could hide and they'll go away?

But she goes down a level, and washes her hands; down another level, and stirs the fire along.

She squints out the livingroom window. Hard to see in the dark, but she can make out two figures, one half the size of the other. The urchin back as well… let's hope there's not going to be a scene of any kind. Now why should I think there's going to be a scene?

As she opens the door, Simon stumbles in.

He has apparently been leaning against it, knocking on the wood.

Remembering Piri Tainui's remarks, she had listened for knocking, but it hadn't been audible until she was nearly into her entrance hall.

Hoowee, remind me to install a bell, an alarm, a photoelectric eye-

she steps to one side to avoid the child's entrance, but not fast enough. He is mysteriously happy to see her, taking her free hand and kissing it, grinning widely, his eyes sparking green in the lanternlight.

"Uh yeah, and how are you?" embarrassed by this wholehearted greeting, lowering her eyes.

His foot is still bandaged, still lacking a sandal. She raises her gaze, and Simon's gesture leads it on to the other person, waiting quietly on the threshold.

"Urhh," says Simon — it is a sound: his fingers snatch at the air and swing abruptly to his throat. The person reaches down and takes hold of his shoulder gently.

"I'm Joseph Gillayley. I'm glad to meet you."

A deep voice. She is looking at the hand, and wondering at the way it has suddenly linked them all.

A dark hand, broad and strong-looking, with neat blunt nails.

Her eyes travel rapidly up the arm and flick to the man's face.

"Hello… o," she gestures with the lantern, and Simon swallows audibly, and draws her hand to his shoulder.

"Kerewin Holmes," she says as their hands touch.

A hard warm hand, and her eyes go back to his face.

He smiles, an amiable grin.

Hell unholy! It's that joker from the pub-

and the pink paper plus the stream of fucks becomes a roaring ribald laugh in her mind. She grins hurriedly back. You and your berloody doorway Vikings Holmes, and uptight dignities… though it's a nice grin, merry as his fosterling's, it must be fostered, and her smile grows, rounding her cheeks and squinching her eyes narrow.

"And I'm very glad to meet you," she says, the laughter in her mind sneaking into her voice. "Both," she adds to the boy, and he

chuckles, strange little sound in the shadows.

Joseph Gillayley laughs quietly, bassing behind it.

"Well come!" says Kerewin. "Come on up. There's coffee at the top, and it'll be a helluva lot warmer."

Simon drops by the fire, spreadeagling himself.

Joseph stands in the doorway, his black eyebrows quirking.

"Well, I like it," she says defensively.

"O?" he asks. His big hands spread. "O, the room? It's magnificent… that window-"

He stands still a moment, then shakes himself. "No, I was watching my son. Sorry," again the odd shaking. "I can't get over the way he's made himself at home."

"O. O yeah," she shrugs and pours a cup of coffee. "You drink coffee, Mr Gillayley? I know your son does."

He turns from contemplating the boy's relaxed sprawl, biting his lower lip.

"Yes, I do, thank you." He looks down at the grass matting. "Urn, would you mind calling me Joe? This," pointing at his son, "refers to you as Kerewin." He glances up, checking for approval, disapproval.

"Good. It'd please me if you called me that too." She pours coffee into another mug. "I don't like getting mizzed or mistered either."

Joe smiles. His lips are full, and beautifully outlined.

"Joe," he says, pointing to himself. "Kerewin," he bows gracefully, "and Simon pake."

He straightens swiftly. "Did it surprise you, the contrast?"

His smile has deepened, not with derision or hurt or contempt, but as though it is a good joke.

"You bet!" She leans back against the bench. "You know what? I was expecting something big and blond, and for some unaccountable reason, dumb and boisterous to boot. And aside from the blond part, I couldn't reasonably justify… o God! I didn't mean dumb that way, I meant stupid-"

Joe says quickly,

"It doesn't worry either of us. Truly."

He looks back to his child.

"Simon, get up from there, and come and give," he hesitates, "give Kerewin a hand. And can I help you too?" he asks. "Yeah, grab your cup. Do you have sugar? Because the only stuff I've got is brown. I've got a few kinds of honey though."

"Brown sugar'll do nicely." He spoons two measures into his cup and Simon's.

"Listen you," he calls. "Come over here. At once."

The child rolls to his back and shakes his hands in the air. He gets to his feet in a hurry though.

"That bit of byplay meant Okay," says Joe, staring at the boy. He switches his gaze back to Kerewin, mellows it with a smile, "or shall we say, I'm coming or doing, so you needn't yell."

"I know this bit," and she snaps her fingers for Yes and No.

"Most of it is shortcuts." He blows on his coffee. "One time we tried proper sign language. It got him good at spelling, but it was too slow. He likes to say things as fast as possible, preferably without having to write them down. All you need to know about his hand-language is that it's mainly derivation. You know, from an object, or a way of doing things that is ordinary, or from ordinary things, or things… O b, bother," and the bother sounds so forced after the fluent stream of obscenity a few nights back that Kerewin laughs out loud.

"A right mess-up," says Joe, his face darker by a flush. "Was it the bother?" She nods.

"Well, I'll admit that it's not what I'd ordinarily say, but I was getting mixed up. I was lecturing, or trying to." He is looking down at the floor again. "Umm, Kerewin?"

"Yeah?"

"I'd like to talk to you a bit if you've got the time to spare. Otherwise, I'll just say thank you properly, and we'll go?"

"By all means, talk."

They went to the fire and sat down round it.

"Well, it was this chessman, the queen. Borrowed," he says with a grin, handing it back. He lets his hand drift down to settle on his son's shoulder then. "I was going to give him a hiding, because that seems to be the only way to get across the message that he's not to go roaming off to other people's houses and burgle them or whatever… and he produces the chessman. Sort of like a truce-flag?" Joe's hands go up, imitating Simon's gesture. Simon is still, holding his cup.

"Up till then, all I knew was that he had gone to your place and broken in, and that you'd looked after him until Piri picked him up. Piri said you seemed a nice sort of person. A lady, he said you were. Sim wasn't sure whether you were man or woman until Piri said that," the man's grinning again.

Kerewin smiles into the fire.

"So Haimona brings out this chesspiece, not to save himself the beating so much as to say something about you, you know?"

"I can imagine."

"Well, it started me thinking. He said how you started to teach him chess, and how you were patient with him when he tried to talk with you."

She remembers her sneers, and jibes, and coolness, and decides Simon/Sim/Haimona is a diplomatic little liar.

"And that you didn't exactly like him, but you were still kind and patient. That was impressive, because generally he's either treated as an idiot, or deaf as well as mute — you've no idea how many people raise their voices to him! Or they talk over him, as though he'll vanish and not be an embarrassment any more. It works too. He generally vanishes from that kind of person very fast." He broods a moment, hand back on his small son's shoulder. "So there it was. We spent an hour wondering why you were different, decent. And — how can I put it?" speaking to Simon now. "Good for you? Good for him," says Joe, looking straight at her.

Kerewin looks back, eyebrows raised.

The man eases down to lie supported by his elbows.

"I mean, it can be bad at school. He comes in for a lot of, o, a lot of petty bullying and shitslinging there. Not just because he's different being dumb, but because he's a bit of an outlaw." The child and his father swap grins. "Like this Monday, well Monday last week. He missed two schooldays before the weekend, and when he went to school on Monday, someone started having a go at him. 'Cops get you again, Gillayley,' style of thing."

Joe draws a deep breath.

"If you push him hard enough, he'll fight you to make you understand. It's his last resort, spitting and kicking… he'll do his damndest to punch into you what he wants to say. That's bad, I know, you know," wagging a finger at the boy, "but he's still trying to talk to you," lifting his eyes to Kerewin, "you know?"

"I can imagine," she says again.

"If you won't listen after that, or you fight him back, he'll despair, and literally throw himself on the ground. And stay there, and shake. It looks like a fit. It isn't. Say the medics. It is sheer frustration and despair that you won't listen, you won't converse, when he's got something to say that's important to him."

Kerewin nods.

"So last week, the little bastards do this push-and-tease-the-oddie business until Simon stupid obliges them by giving up and getting sick. And then you won't go to school for the rest of the week, will you?"

Simon is squinting at the gold grass floor.

"So. Today, I came here and left the note and then I took the morning off work, and went along with him to school to find out what started everything off this time. And all those sweet smiling little kids said, 'Your Simon started it, Mr Gillayley, he's bad isn't he?' And they all believe it, or know it's a very safe bet, on his Past record, that I'm going to believe it… but I don't know…."

Kerewin asks,

"What did the teachers say?"

"Nothing much. They didn't see it happen. Anyway, they've more or less given up on him now. Because he can be unapproachable

— you've never been coldshouldered till Sim's done it to you, believe you me! Even I've been on the receiving end- Some of the teachers tried to help. In his first year there, last year, one lady tried very hard, but it was too soon after. The death of my wife. And he was upset about that. So this year, they shoved him in the special class to begin with, all the slow learners and near nuts and that. Patently ridiculous, because he can read and write as competently as kids twice his age. Well, nearly. So then they put him in Standard One, and he's not fitting in there either. They recommend an institution of some kind or the other. For handicapped kids, you know the kind."

He leans over and ruffles the boy's hair.

"And they'll put you in that kind of place over my dead body," he says grimly.

"Look," he says, after a minute, "he's bright. He can understand anything you put to him, Kerewin. He doesn't need special care and attention. He just needs people to accept him."

She thinks,

There is something peculiar about all this pleading. As though I'm being set up, or primed-

She says carefully,

"You mentioned he was considered to be a bit of an outlaw. My radiophone operator said, quote, he's a well known local oddity, specialising in sneak thievery and petty vandalism, unquote. Is it just because he doesn't get on with people at school, or is there some other reason?"

Joe flushes.

"I should imagine his muteness, and the fact that my wife died, and he doesn't get a woman's care. I should think those reasons make him a bit unsettled."

He is watching the floor again, away from her, away from his son.

"There is a wildness in him sometimes," he says. "It comes maybe from those reasons. Like the running away… the child psych said he was trying to find his own mother, his other parents, even if he doesn't think that knowingly. That he won't face up, can't face up, to them being gone. Not here," still looking downward, still with the dark flush suffusing his face.

There's something bloody peculiar about this whole conversation. It doesn't feel right. Has he got some strange hope I'm going to be the kid's substitute mother? Bloody oath… and all you can do, Simon obstinate, is stare unconcernedly into the fire.

Almost as though he caught her thought, the boy turns round and smiles broadly to her. She smiles back, wondering again what happened to his teeth.

"How old are you, Sim?"

She says to Joe, while watching for the child's answer, "I guessed anywhere between five and ten, going by size and behaviour. I still would, but after what you've said, I'd bring the upper limit down."

The boy is looking at her in a considering way, mouth down at the corners.

Joe says softly, "He doesn't know. I don't know. Nobody does."

He picks up a chip of coal and flicks it into the fire.

"Well, you can see I'm not his blood father," he says into the silence. "Do you remember a Labour weekend three years or so back, when there were terrific storms? Out of season storms?"

"O, vaguely."

"Well, a gale caught a boat here then. A stranger cruiser. It sank off the end of Ennetts Reef. Everybody aboard came ashore. One way or the other."

The man has been talking quickly, almost convulsively, his eyes on the boy who is uncaring, not hearing, it seems.

"Well, meet some jetsam," he says, and his eyes glint, belying the callousness of the flippancy. The deep lines round his mouth are charmed into emphasis for his smile.

I bethought you grim and forty, but now I doubt you're much older than me. Maybe not as old as me.

The lines on his face seem drawn by an inward corroding bitterness, not age. A carelessness of life, an abandonment, death of wife and death of him, she thinks, as her answering smile begins.

"I see. Wreckage washed ashore as opposed to goods found floating. Thanks for answering. I shouldn't have been inquisitive, but it intrigued me. I don't have experience of children of any age group, but his years seem to vary a hell of a lot. One minute he looks about five, and the next he acts as though he's ten times as old."

"Excuse all this," she adds to the boy, who had sat up at the last exchange of smiles, proffering his father the black queen Kerewin had left on the floor.

"That's the way it seems to me every so often too," says Joe agreeably. "Ahh yes Haimona, the chess-"

The grin slides in again, above the strong spade-shaped chin.

"No," he says, "it's maybe seven, possibly eight, but probably six. Maybe even younger, but not likely. God knows. Nobody was at all sure how old you were originally," talking now to Simon P, "and you weren't much bloody help," says Joe.

Simon smiles a bland smile that somehow makes his face seem empty.

Joe turns the queen round in his fingers, examining it from all sides.

"Kerewin, politeness aside, was he good?" His voice deepens further, sounds less strained. The scarring lines that run down his

cheeks and embitter his eyes and the corners of his mouth, lighten a moment. "You see, you-"

She says hurriedly,

"O, he was an excellent guest. He slept most of Saturday, and Piri Tainui arrived before lunch yesterday. At breakfast practically. He was no trouble, I assure you."

"Lucky for you," says Joe to Simon. "Good for you," he amends, and shuffles the child's fringe back off his face. "Hell, I feel as awkward as a cow in a bog… I was going to say that you strike me as someone who'd accept a nuisance, and not make a fuss about it, Kerewin. So, for a beginning I thought, if he'd made a pest of himself, I'd fix that up before we went any further."

Fix it up how? And where are we going? And me not make a fuss? Sheeeit,

but she smiles nastily, while saying,

"I had every intention of shunting him outa here within minutes of his discovery. But then there was his foot. And it started raining. So we had lunch. And then there was the question of who to send him to. All in all, he stayed. If he had made a nuisance of himself or pinched something, or something," now she can feel herself starting to blush, "I would just have dropped him quietly from the top of my Tower."

Joe laughs.

So does Simon, but stops his laughing short.

"Save a lot of future trouble too, eh," says the man. "Look, would it offend you if I offered payment, say for his board?"

"Yes."

"Back in the bog," he says and laughs again, humourlessly. "Well…" dark head downbent, long brown fingers still fiddling with the chesspiece, "that's some of the background. It happens often enough, eh, but generally me or one of my Tainui relations pick him up and bring him home before he really gets anywhere. Or the police," he says, staring at the boy again.

Simon is tracing the intricacies of the tatami mat with his forefinger, absorbed in doing so.

"O."

"You know, this is the first time he's ever ended up really staying with someone." Joe is still frowning at his son. "I was very curious to find out what was the attraction," glancing at her. Again that charming unlining smile.

"Surprise, surprise, nothing sentient. It was the Tower itself, I expect. I've had other people come and gawk at it, but never anyone inside before. Now, that's a thing," she looks at the child. "Is he good at climbing?"

Joe shrugs. "Not particularly. Why's that?"

"Because he managed to get up into a window that has only a chest below it, and the distance between the chest and the sill is rather more than he is, and it's all smooth stone wall. If you follow?" "O?" says Joe, but enquiringly to his son, who sits up and gestures something too fast for her to follow.

You need eyes like an archerfish, able to see what happens on two planes at once. One set for watching the hands, and the other for watching whatever it is he mouths.

Joe interprets, after looking at her puzzled face,

"He stood on the upraised lid of the chest and hoisted himself up. But the lid fell down and he wasn't game to jump to the floor."

"Of course… simple and obvious when you know how." She grins, more to herself than either of them. "The only way I could see him doing it was like some kind of caterpillar with suckerfeet, humping up the wall."

The man guffaws unrestrainedly, "Hear that, e tama?" and the boy smiles, politely, a mere facial twitch that lasts physically for two seconds but somehow lingers.

"Anyone like more coffee?" asks Kerewin hastily. She gets up before they answer, and brings the pot across. The trip is mainly to hide her face. There is something rather hardboiled about that brat, who can smile as he's bid and wind up looking like he's wondering how you'd taste.

As she tops up the cups, the boy stands and limps over to the shelf with the chessboard. From the corner of her eye, she watches the limp. Much reduced, indicative of a mild twinge in the heel. Bloody little fraud, she thinks, but nods to him when he turns round, questioning with his eyes for permission to take the set down.

"You were being taught to play… here, show us what you can do, eh." Joe slides forward to lie at the boy's side, picking up chessmen and placing them in the formal double drawn ranks.

It's the evident familiarity, she tells herself, fingered communion with knight and king and queen. She has a sudden longing to talk with someone and play live chess, rather than the mummified games set and dried in books.

Simon, after watching what Joe is doing, sets up his end of the board. He kneels up, shifting a shoulder hesitantly, and points to her.

"Ah sheesh," says Kerewin. "I caught three flounders a day or so back, and I've been keeping them fresh in a water-safe. I'm going to stuff 'em with celery and crushed pineapple. I'll serve them with a salad and baked potatoes." She stands, and the little errant vertebrae in her neck and back snick into place. She is looking at the floor now. Or rather, at her boots.

Kaibabs of cut gold suede, creased and scuffed to bare feet fineness by long wearing. How well shoon you are-"Actually, this is an invitation to tea if you haven't already had it, and I can thereby bribe you to have some games of chess with me. It won't take long… unless of course you have something else to do, in which case I apologise for being importunate."

The red tide pours into her face and she shrieks at herself, inside herself, You never meant to say that! You meant to get them out of the way-

The child is begging Can we stay? with his hands.

Careful. I might end up by liking you, brat, if I'm not careful.

Joe stands, and places his hands over the child's hands.

"It doesn't need you to plead it, boy… what can I say, Kerewin? I'd stay here all night and play chess with you if that's what you want, and it doesn't need an offer of tea, either. Because you looked after Himi, and I'd like to do that."

Heap coals of fire upon my head.

"We didn't have tea," he says. "We came straight here after I got home from work. I didn't even have a shower, or get this one dressed up… which reminds me," shaking Simon gently, "I thought I told you to have a bath, and get Piri or Marama to see to your foot?"

Simon raises his eyebrows, Did you?

"Arggh," and shakes him harder. To Kerewin, "That's settled then. Can I give you a hand with the spuds or anything?"

For seconds she has stood in a state of self-blankness, observant of what's happening but out of contact with her body: then the hands shift off the child's shoulders, and in a flood of sensation she is aware of the rustle of the man's felted wool coat, the breadth of his shoulders contrasted with the child's bone-thinness; the blackness of his long straight hair; the half-wonderment, half-weariness of his face.

And the fact that he is exactly as tall as herself. Deep brown eyes on the same level as her stone greyblue gaze.

"O yes," she says. "Not so much give me a hand, but if you want to go and have that shower, or wash Simon, you might as well do that now eh? There's plenty of hot water."

"That would be all right? It'd be no trouble?"

"Tchaa! What trouble? Your son can show you where the shower is. The first door inside the bathroom is a linen cupboard. Help yourself to towels and whatnot. There's first aid gear down here. Somewhere," she says, gesturing vaguely around.

Urchin Gillayley, catching her eye, points to knife-drawer and grog cupboard.

"Okay, so your memory's good," she mockbows to him.

His father laughs. "Only when it suits him… my thanks. I'll have that shower, and wash him too, then come down and give

you a hand with tea. Then we'll play a chess marathon, and you can have the pleasure of wiping me out piecemeal and tidy every game."

He grins. "I'm not a very good player."

Kerewin grins back. "I am," she says.

We came on the bike, he'd said. Him in front, because then I can be sure he's not going to fall off. He's good at falling off things-

The bike was parked on the other side of her bridge. He had a

what he called 'Morning after emergency kit' there-"You know

how it can get, you wake up feeling like yech, so I carry the basics with me. Washing gear and a spare shirt, and gear for Himi in case it's needed."

He went into the night to get it, carrying his son.

She was taking the skeletons out of the flounders, wielding knife and scissors with practised skill, when the man arrived back in the kitchen level, child leaning against one shoulder, a dufflebag over the other.

"Nice walk," he says gaily. "It's still drizzling though."

"Yeah, I can see it on the window there eh."

They look on with interest.

"You a cook or something?"

"Or something."

She is filling the flounders with neat little mounds of pale green celery and yellowish pineapple. "Really I'm just a brilliant amateur. In everything," she adds sourly.

"It looks very nice. Though I never seen that done to a flounder before," watching her sprinkle parsley on top of the fish.

"O, it's past caring what happens to it now."

She slides the flounders into an oven dish and the butter sizzles round them.

"Twenty minutes or so, and they'll be done."

"A hint, tama. Come and show us where this shower is. I never had a Tower shower before," giggling as they go out.

Overpowered, he cowered, glowering amidst the flowers,

and she sits by the fire spinning-over compositions for the sheer hell of it. That's an odd child. And an odd man.

The coal sinks down in its red bed, and the little violet flames run flickering over it.

She wanders across the room and lifts her golden guitar down from the wall. It is easy, leaning over the ambered belly, to put thought through a filter of slow-picked arpeggios.

An odd child, with its silence, and canny receptiveness.

Orange-red sparks climbing in skewed lines to die out in the glimmer dark pile of the soot.

An odd man, looking so bitter until he smiles. A harmonic bells out under her fingers.

Why the wariness and drawn-eyed look of the child?

Why the bitterness corrupting the man's face?

And why, above all, the peculiar frisson of wrongness I keep

getting from some of the conversation?

O it's riddles, and no thing of mine,

and she quickens her chording to a heavy downbeat strumming.

In the bathroom, Joe can hear the guitar, the rhythm of it rather than the chords: the walls are too thick for more.

"She can play… dry yourself," to the boy, as he begins putting on his own clothes.

His body is squat and heavily muscled, except for his legs, thin-calved and spindly.

A long pale scar runs over the brown skin, from his right shoulder blade down in a curve across his ribs.

"You've been lucky as hell this time," watching the boy dress, grimacing at the child's thin body. "Behave yourself, Haimona. Don't let's spoil it, eh."

He says meditatively, "It would be nice to have a friend again, somebody we could talk with who wasn't a relation."

The boy raises his eyebrows.

"Out, and be careful of your heel."

When the boy has gone, he looks round the bathroom. He gathers the used towels — she's dead keen on this dark green colour, everything's it — and as he picks them up, something falls ringing to the floor.

A broad gold circle with an inset stud of greenstone.

"O shit, o sweet Christ."

Simon had stood there, dressed himself there, and that had fallen from Simon's pocket.

"O you bloody little sod."

He thinks a minute, rubbing the back of his neck, We done already? Because bloody Himi can't keep his hands off anyone else's gear? and then he leaves the ring on the sill, next to the basin.

The boy slid in through the doorway, and went over to the fire. Kerewin, armed with knife and spatula, was maneuvering whole flounders on to plates. Joe came in, holding out the towels. "Chuck 'em on the floor there, I'll see to them later," and she

gets the last fish out without breaking off so much as a sidefin bone.

"That smells like good food. We timed it nicely, eh?"

"Perfectly."

"Would you mind if I put something on his foot first? I've got something to say to him too, but it'll only take a minute."

"Fine, go ahead," and handed him the first aid box.

He went to the boy and spoke in a low voice, so low it was almost covered by the rattle of the crockery and cutlery she was laying out.

But it was still loud enough to hear:

"E noho ki raro. Hupeke tou waewae," and the boy sat quickly, looking at his father wide-eyed. "E whakama ana au ki a koe."

Kerewin was wide-eyed too by now, shuffling the plates discreetly louder.

Really? You're ashamed of him? And more pertinent, why? And I don't think I'll disclose meantime that I can speak Maori.

"Kei whea te rini?"

She stole a surreptitious glance.

The boy flushed violently, reached for his back pocket, and then the colour drained out of his face.

Joe bandaged his foot, and didn't say anything more until he finished and the child stood. Then he hit him hard across the calf of his leg. The sound cracked around the room and Kerewin looked up sharply.

"Kaua e tahae ano," as the boy staggers straight, and then Joe turned to her saying,

"That was just…."

She says evenly,

"The ring was borrowed more likely. I have so many I wouldn't miss one or two. Still, thanks for caring. This dinner's getting cold while the beer gets warm."

He stands openmouthed.

Well, you've certainly got all your teeth.

"E korero Maori ana koe?"

"He iti iti noa iho taku mohio," she answers blandly.

"I don't know whether to be delighted or horrified," his heavy shoulders fall. "I don't know whether he was going to bring it back or not, but it fell out of his pocket when he was getting dressed, I think. I'm very sorry, but I left it upstairs and I hoped you would…."

"Don't be. Hell, you want to see what I used to pinch as a child. It's not stealing properly. It's just something takes your passing fancy, so you take it to amuse yourself with for a while."

"He will learn not to steal," says Joe, his mouth tightening.

"Yes." She turns round, hearing the slipping step come up behind

her, and looks into eyes that are now intensely green. "Help yourself to fish or fandangles here, I don't give a damn. But tell your father first. Saves trouble, eh?"

It wasn't the stealing that bothered him, or the blow she'd bet. It was being found out.

But the grin he was offering was pure bedevilling merriment.

"So okay," Kerewin shrugs, "and how about tea?"

Simon poured the beer: the head took half the glass.

"Spoiler," said Joe.

It settles down, a hundred thousand bubbles snapping out, cream diminishing to clear brown liquid.

"I'll pour my own, thanks" she said, and did, ignoring the child's pained expression.

She settled comfortably back, hand curled round her glass, and watched the chequered board.

Joe was the sort of player he said he was, not very good.

"A while since you played?"

He smiled ruefully. "I used to play at college. Then I played my wife a few games, after I quit there. I haven't played since she, for a while."

The hesitancy, the catch in his phrasing. He doesn't like mentioning her death.

She considered her next move for two seconds before making it.

"O hell." Joe screwed his eyes shut. "I should have seen that two moves back." He opened his eyes and sighed. "Sim, get my smokes from your bag, eh." He looked at Kerewin,

"I resign?"

"Well, you can play it out if you really want to, but you're doomed." She sounds smug, she knows. But she likes winning.

The child brings back a packet of cigarettes. He takes out two, and lights them.

She says hastily,

"I don't smoke those cigarettes, thanks all the same," and Joe replies,

"The other one is probably for him. If he had proper manners," reaching up and catching Simon round the waist, and sitting him down on his lap abruptly, "which he hasn't, and can't seem to learn, he would have handed you the packet first."

The boy's already got one cigarette in his mouth, giving the other one to Joe.

"Ka pai, e tama… but see you remember others first next time." Simon gestures to Kerewin in a quick pointed traverse that sweeps to her face round to her side pocket and back to himself. Then he

lies back in the strong circle of his father's arms, and blows a smoke-plume at her with calm expertise.

"Even so, you still offer… he says you smoke something you keep in your pocket, but if you want a smoke you can have his?"

"Ah, no thanks…" she took out the silver container lined with cedar wood that held her cigarillos. "He's right, I normally smoke these. A pipe or cigars on occasion, but rarely cigarettes." She lit a cigarillo. "Ahhh," hunting for words that didn't sound too critical or meddlesome, when Joe says,

"Him smoking eh? Well, he's allowed to when I'm around. He doesn't inhale much, just plays at it. Makes him feel grownup or something," and he leans over and kisses Simon's upturned face. "No harm done anyway."

"None of my business, I know, but it's a little unusual to find the matter treated rationally. Most parents I've had the misfortune to meet don't think about it at all. They instantly assume if their young kid smokes, it's wrong. Doesn't matter if they smoke themselves — watch out, kid! A good example of how parents in our society tend easily to tyranny — I shall make or mould my child as i see fit, without too much reference to the developing personality or needs of the child." She grins suddenly. "And here's me talking who classes children as something more remote from humanity than your average snail!"

Joe smiles. "You're a dispassionate observer, or at least uninvolved… it's awkward to treat this one as my personal property. He's apt to remind me he's a developing personality about two dozen times of an evening. In a particularly stressful way, at that."

"Heigh ho for children's lib," as she puts down her beer, and begins to set up the chessboard again.

Smoke clouds grow and dwindle. The game continues, a leisurely vying of mental strength. And a reaching out from either side, a growing pleasure as the knowledge comes. This is someone I shall be able to call friend.

Simon comes over, and looks, and cuts his throat crossways airily.

"Go get lost," says Joe, "I can see I'm not winning without your cheerful interpretation." Kerewin coughs.

"Simon? There's another bottle of beer in the cooler. Would you open it for us, please?"

And,

"You can pour my glass if you want, yes."

"Don't get sarcastic, that's all," says Joe.

Barely a head on it, professionally poured.

"See?" says Joe, spreading his hand, "told you, eh? Smart arse," he mutters to himself. Pushes his king over.

And the third game.

"Moonmaker, sunraker, o wild song for my ruby guitar," sang Kerewin, very quietly, "ah hah," sneaking up on a bishop.

And Simon, ceased from wandering round the room, lay peacefully stealing fallen chessmen from Joe's side of the board and adding them to Kerewin's hoard.

It was a much longer game.

He can feel mind muscles long-unused, stretching and beginning to feel their way to action again. He played with concentration and was aware that the woman was directing only half her attention to the game, and that the half was enough.

"You are top good," he burst out, "too good. I feel as though every move I make is manoeuvred, that I'm doing exactly what you want me to do."

"On the contrary," she said mildly. "I play opportunist chess, and it's largely dependent on what you do. Or don't," grinning wolfishly.

He looked at her. Looked at his doomed bishop and castle-bound king. Looked at small Simon smiling his gap-toothed happy-idiot smile up at his marvellous newfound friend.

(SHE GOT RINGS. SHE PLAY THE GUITAR FOR ME.

"She liked you?"

NO.)

"Aue," said Joe, but wasn't miserable at all. In this strange round room, warm and full of a golden feeling of companionship, Himi good and sweet beside me, how could I be? "E hoa, I think you just won again."

Dark man lying full length by the fire, pale child huddled at his side.

The firelight dances, ruddying them and the chessboard, all men now neatly packed away. Wars of small kingdoms in forgotten lands, what do chessmen dream of in the dark? She was brewing cocoa, a final drink before the Gillayleys left.

For herself and Joe at least: the boy had drifted off to sleep towards the end of the last game, and his father was reluctant to wake him.

"He doesn't sleep well," he said. "If he falls asleep, I leave him sleeping. Else I have to feed him dope, so he'll go down at night."

Evocative phrase, 'go down at night' — down to Sheol or some other gibbering dark, or ride the restless tumbril of dreams-

"Dope?" she had asked.

"O, some stuff from the medic. Red and syrupy. Doesn't taste too bad."

Stirring sugar and cocoa and a little warm water together, until the whole achieved the consistency and fragrance of melted chocolate:

"Joe, why doesn't he sleep well?"

The man's smile is crooked.

"Bad dreams. He doesn't like going to sleep because he'll dream bad dreams." He twisted round and looked in open wonderment at the still child. "Spooked, would you believe?"

"Spooked, I'd believe."

He wasn't quite joking, nor was he truly serious. There was a strained gaiety in his voice.

"Scared of ghosts and things in dreams… if I was proper Maori I'd…."

Into the following silence,

"You'd what?"

"Hah, I don't know." He laughed quietly. "Maybe take him to people who'd know what to do, to keep off ghosts in dreams." Laughing again, a dry unfunny sound like a cough, "See? Bloody superstitious Nga Bush? Get the Maori a bad name, eh?"

Kerewin, carefully looking into the cup,

"When I worked at Motueka in the tobacco a few years ago, I knew two girls who were really spooked. One was Pakeha, the other, city Maori. They heard things breathing on them at night, and there was no-one there. Damp patches appeared on the ceiling and the floor of their bach, and no-one spilt anything. And books and jugs would fall over when there was no wind, and no-one to touch them, eh. And then the footsteps started, and they couldn't sleep any more… the whole thing was quite stupid, but it had gathered a menacing quality from somewhere. Or something."

Joe was staring, unmoving.

"So the Maori wrote to her mother, who went into a trance, and found out an aunt of the girl didn't like her going round with another woman. She had spooked them. Makutu, nei? The mother said to go to a Catholic priest and get some holy water, and bless themselves and the bach. She was one of the people who know what to do."

"It worked?" There was tension tight in his voice.

"It worked. No more odd things happening. No more scared girls." She brought over the mugs of coffee. "Probably one pissed-off aunt though," she said, sitting down.

Joe grinned.

"Ah hell, I should've kept inside the faith. Might have helped me after all." He said it lightly. Then, slowly, "You speak Maori, and know a bit about, about things. Are you Maori by any chance?"

Kerewin, blue-eyed, brown-haired, and mushroom pale, looked back at him. "If I was in America, I'd be an octoroon." Paused. "It's

very strange, but whereas by blood, flesh and inheritance, I am but an eighth Maori, by heart, spirit, and inclination, I feel all Maori. Or," she looked down into the drink, "I used to. Now it feels like the best part of me has got lost in the way I live."

Joe was very still; so softly, that it was almost on a level with his breathing,

"That's the way I feel most of the time." More loudly, "My father's father was English so I'm not yer 100 % pure. But I'm Maori. And that's the way I feel too, the way you said, that the Maoritanga has got lost in the way I live."

He shook his head and sighed.

"God, that's funny. I never said that to anyone before, not to Piri or Marama or Wherahiko, or Ben. Not even to my wife."

"She was Maori too?"

"Tuhoe."

"Yeah."

He drank the rest of his cocoa at one swallow.

"Ho well." He slides his hands under Simon and gently lifts him, and stands in a graceful exact movement straight to his feet. The child doesn't stir.

"Kerewin…."

"Yes?"

"I don't know how to say thank you except this way." He says very formally, "Ka whakapai au kia koe mo tauatawhai."

Kerewin smiles. "Ka pai, e hoa."

Joe gives her a brilliant smile back. "We see you again?"

She considers, for all of a second,

"I'll give you a ring, eh?"

"Yes. Well," moving to the doorway, "anything you want or need, and think I can help, just give me a yell. You got friends," he smiles to her again, "one crazy kid and a mixed-up Maori. Should take you far-"

"How about this non-painting painter who's not sure whether she's

coming or going? You'll get a long way with me, too-" She's aware

that this is the first time she's said "Pax, friends," to anyone for a decade.

"Do you need a hand to carry that bag?"

He shakes his head. "Would you give us the parka out of it though? I'll bet it's still drizzling outside."

"It is."

Holding the sleeping boy with one arm, Joe adjusts the parka over his own head with the other, so the jacket forms a tent-like covering, sheltering the child as well as himself.

"You'll be OK on the bike?"

"We're used to it. I'll just park him in front and he'll probably go back to sleep before we're out of your road."

Kerewin chuckles.

"I'll believe it, unlikely and all as it sounds.'

Rich night. A promise of times to come… maybe. She sat a long time by the fire after the echo of the bike's engine had died. No sound now but winds and trees and the omnipresent sea.

Going! Going! The clock's just gone eleven.

She stretched and groaned and yawned herself awake.

"Gorecrows, gorecrows," moaning it for no good reason except it fitted the sound she wanted to make and her bloody turn of mind.

It was raining. Heavy grey clouds rimmed the horizon of the livingroom circle. A small patch of blue sky scarred with white said the day was trying to come fine.

There was a template of a drawing in her mind, spidery and shadowed, a remnant of dreams. She doodled with a fine-tip on a block of heavily textured paper, making tangles of lines, but the spider shadow was still obscure. She felt it to be worth digging out.

"You are there!" digging the tip hard into the paper, grooving it and spoiling the woven abstract patterns. "Ah to hell, come out."

Ripping the page off the block and hurling it against the wall didn't achieve anything. Hitting her closed fist on the table didn't do much either. She jammed her hands into jean pockets, breathing hard.

"Get your fishing gear, Holmes."

Funny how words echoed now, where before they sounded right, her voice for her ears.

"Calm down, o soul. Be reasonable, a serene and rational being."

Her heart belies the words, therdunk, therdunk, beating harder and harder.

I am exceedingly angry for no good reason.

"Ah shit and apricots, why'd it have to be this way?" calling loudly, anguish in her voice. "I have everything I need, but I have lost the main part."

"Damn. Damned. Damned." Thumping the handrail so it quivers, all the way downstairs. At the bottom, the flukes are shaking.

She soothes them with a finger, and then leans her head upon them.

"If the weather stays fine, I'll take a trip out past the heads. Set a pot or two, and then be with dolphins for hours. I'll use the berloody boat for a change instead of having it barnacle up at the mooring."

She pulls the door open: the blue piece of sky is shrinking. The

lowering bulbous rim has edged forward.

"Ahh, bugger it all," but she has lost her anger. She's filled with a soft woolly despair. "It'd figure," resigned, "go upstairs and sit in your big chair and twirl merrily round. Contemplate your easels. Pretend you're an artist again. Pah!" spitting.

The spit landed on a dandelion.

It was an even bet it would have. For, regardless of winter frosts, dandelions grow here all year round. They know where they're welcome. She cultivates them, doping the ground with things dandelions like, and helpfully spreading seed by blowing the clocks.

Wine. Ersatz coffee. Salad greens. A diuretic, if I need such a thing. Pickles from the roots. Dry the leaves for a green stock for soup. And tea can be made from the leaves as well… not to mention the superb aureoles glowing, a feast for the most miserly eyes. What more could you ask from a simple plant?

She apologises to the spat flower, and turns to go inside.

When round the edge of the wall, something. Steps light and limping on the grass.

"God in hell, it can't be."

God in hell, it is.

There stands the guttersnipe on top of her flowers, a grin wide and welcoming on his face.

"Haunted," she says to him, without a hello. "Trailed by ghosts."

The grin becomes a ghost of itself.

"What on earth are you doing here? It's Tuesday and a schoolday."

It's exorcised entirely.

He holds a note out to her, and stands frowning, rubbing a groove in the damp grass with the toe of his sandal.

"O boy, here was I wondering what to do now I can't go and play with my especial snouted friends, and guess what turns up?"

She stuffs the note into a back pocket, and holds out her hand.

"C'mon urchin, you're just in time for lunch," and laughs at the double meaning.

He takes the hand but doesn't move, looking up at this lady of the fire, outlined by the retreating sun and full of a strange gaiety that seems close to despair. He holds her hand more tightly, sweeps his eyes from her wild flurry of hair down to her bare feet, what is wrong? Where is it wrong? Can I help? up to the odd pendant that hangs, like his label, in the middle of her chest. Only her pendant is made of a blue stone, carved like a complex opened knot.

"That," she says, after tracing his gaze, "is a sort of Sufic symbol. Worked quite cunningly in turquoise. The circle is silver."

She takes her hand away to hold it closer for him to see, poised between her forefingers.

She doesn't like holding hands.

He is amused.

"Okay," mistaking the small shark grin, "so I gloat too much on things I like. Inside, Gillayley, before I change my mind and send you away.

"Not really," she says, inside the hall. "I suppose it's a compliment that you want to stay, eh. But only God knows why," and she sighs.

She stands at the bottom of the spiral and chants,

"There is both amber and lodestone.

Whether thou art iron or straw,

thou wilt come to the hook."

She stops, frowning at the silent crucifix.

"Why should that come to mind?" Over her shoulder to the silent child, "From the Masnawi by a poet called Rumi."

Jalal-uddin the Sufi.

Ah hah, back to the Sufic knot. Not to mention fishing. Quid est.

In the living room, he looks round and sighs. Then he turns to her and hunches his shoulders. He stands there, staring.

The silence, o my soul, is getting awkward again.

She hums to herself, while stoking up the range.

He whistles and she looks round. He sits down, and takes off the dufflebag he carries.

Takes out two parcels, one large and wrapped in very greasy brown paper, the other small and neatly folded in a black silk wrapping. He beckons.

"Gillayleys bearing gifts?"

She crosses to him and sits down too.

Four mutton birds, plump and pale. "E hoa, I've sent lunch-"

"Succulent. Do you like 'em, boy?"

He nods, and pushes the silkwrapped bundle to her.

"Joy, another whatisit."

It is more difficult to open this one. The wrapper is a scarf, and the ends have been knotted together again and again.

"This is to keep something in? Or me out?"

There's no answer.

We're not in a very communicative mood today, are we? Sullen urchin.

She resorts to using her teeth on the knots.

"Ah, got it."

A small battered case of black morocco. She sniffs the leather. Under the smell of the hide is a subtle musk, which grows stronger as she holds the case in her warm hand. "Fascination. Now, how do we get in?"

There is no obvious fastening.

The boy takes it, and presses the two front corners. The top lifts slowly as he hands it back.

"Thank you,"

and all expectant we lift the lid to find, and what she sees is entirely unexpected.

It is a rosary of semi-precious stones. A Christian rosary presumably, because the beads tell decades, lots of them, each decade separated from the next by large beads carved from turquoise. The decades are alternatively of coral, the red Italian kind, and amber, and each begins and ends with a bloodstone.

There is no crucifix. The beads trail off from a small gold plaque, and the chain that joins them ends in a solitary link. There is a ring on the rosary. The chain of beads has been broken and rejoined through it.

She looks at it closely. A signet ring made of very soft gold. 22 carat. There is a curious coat of arms engraved on the ring. A long-necked bird like a heron, with wings outstretched, is nesting in flames.

"A phoenix, bejabbers."

The bird was engraved over a saltire. There is fine lettering round it, but incredibly, it looks as though someone has filed that down so it can't be read.

"This is magnificent," holding it up. "Is it yours?"

He shakes his head, pointing at her.

"Mine? Do you mean as a gift? Like hell!"

The boy takes out his pencil and pad.

YOURS

"My dear child, you do mean it as a gift for me?" He nods. "But you — or Joe — can't give me something like this. It's beautiful, but also valuable."

She loops the decades round her hand: the beads are cool and smooth. "Superb," she whispers to herself. "Flame and water, earth and air… amber and coral, turquoise and bloodstone."

She hands it, almost reluctantly, back to Simon.

"It's like, o like something you are offered but which really belongs to a family. Do you know about Te Rangi Hiroa and the cloaks? No? I'll tell you sometime, but for the meantime, I have touched your gift, appreciated its richness and your intention, and that is enough for me."

The rosary hangs in her outstretched hand, swaying.

IT IS MINE I GIVED IT TO YOU.

"Gave," she says, her head bent. "You can't, boy. I know it's yours to give, all right," but she's remembering the ring last night, and wondering where this might have come from, "but it is too rich a thing to give to a chance met friend. I thank you for your thought, truly, but it remains your rosary."

Rosary. He mouths the word, closing his lips on it as though tasting the sound.

"Rosary… you didn't know the name of it? Do you know what it is?"

His face is troubled.

IT'S MINE, thumb jabbed back at himself several times.

"Yeah," she says gently, "it's yours. It's also something you use when you pray. Joe hasn't told you?"

No.

She draws the loops through her fingers, counting off the decades. "Unusual. There's the full fifteen here. Most rosaries today are really chaplets, and have enough decades for only one set of mysteries." Ah, look at him Holmes, you're spouting garbage and gobbledygook

as far as he can make out- "Generally, only those used by religious

have fifteen decades. I've got one myself, a pleasant ebony and steel-linked one, complete with brass medallion and silver Corpus, obtained long ago from a Cistercian."

This one, gold and gems, seems too worldly for a religious to handle. Her fingers arrive at the plaque again. Squinting, she can make out a monogram, much worn as though someone has fingered it for years. The letters flow into one another, but look like gothic M.C.de V.

She can't think of a Latin tag that fits the letters. Mater Compassionem de Virgo? Not only bastard Latin, but it doesn't sound orthodox.

She turns the plaque over. There's a surprisingly clear intaglio of the icon, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.

"Well, well."

She adds after a minute, "The beads keep track of the prayers you say, tell you what kind of prayer to say next. You ever want to know them, I can teach you."

He makes no move to take the rosary.

She hands it to him again, so close that he can't avoid taking it. He frowns, and writes on his pad. Then he kneels up and puts the rosary over her head, passes her his note, face tight, mouth tight, all of him condensed and taut as though ready to spring or explode.

IT IS YOURS I GIVE IT TO YOU

Ah hell, what do we do now? Give it back and precipitate a scene?

because there is a rising flush on the Gillayley face and his tension is becoming almost unbearable.

Instead, she makes the circle of beads into three loops, and settles them round her neck.

'Okay, I thank you very much for your gift."

I can always sneak it back to Joe. Oddly, the rosary feels comfortable and familiar, clinking against

the Sufic maze. And more oddly, the small boy is delighted with himself for succeeding in giving it away. Relaxed as water now, positively hugging himself for joy of it all.

Nutty child.

"Umm, d'you mind telling me what this is for?"

He shuts his eyes and shakes his head.

"You don't mind me asking? Or you're not telling?"

The pad and pencil are slipped deliberately back into his pocket.

Which reminds me. No more initialling each note. I musta got into the familiar category, or some damn thing.

"Then what's it for?"

The boy goes on shaking his head, so his hair falls screening his face.

The way it flows out with each turn of his head reminds her of the skirts of dancing dervishes as they spin to ecstasy.

Exceedingly nutty child.

"Her. Well, we'll leave the matter there then." Gets to her feet, and puts the mutton-birds into the range oven, in an unlidded baking-dish.

"Come on," she says to the entranced child, "downstairs and help us collect some puha to go with them."

The muttonbirds turned golden in their own rich fat: the puha steamed quickly in water. Kerewin cut slices of brown wheaten bread and left them unbuttered. Then they feasted. Muttonbirds have a lot of bones, some dark, some pale as bones should be. They licked each one clean of flesh and fat, and wiped their fingers and faces on bread before eating it. Picked up puha in their fingers: its slightly bitter taste was astringently refreshing. A mouthful of bird, and one of bread, and a fingerful of puha, and then back to the bones.

He had muttonbird fat on his face, in his hair, all over his hands. And breadcrumbs… gone was the neat precise eating of the weekend. This was hog in and enjoy.

And I probably look as bad, feel as good.

At last she said, leaning back against her chair,

"Do you know what was in that note from Joe?"

Simon sighed happily.

He wiped his mouth on his hands, and his hands on his jeans. Grinned at her while he did.

Then took out his notebook and wrote, JOE PICKS ME UP TONIGHT.

"You know." He has left delicate fingerprints of grease on the paper. "Well, I'm sort of pleased that you like being here, but what precisely do you think you're going to do?"

The little boy shrugged…..

"Because I'm going upstairs to do some drawing in a minute. Simon licked his fingers, then held up the pencil and pointed to himself.

Nice economical way to say, I'll draw too, assuming that's what

he means.

She stood, looking at him. The fey swirling mood had ended.

But, a tendency to steal and damage… not all there, said the radiophone voice. Joe had written:

Many thanks for the best night I've had in years. I'll buy a book on chess today and see if I can't beat you some day at your own game. There's a bloke plays at work — I'll ask him for a few tips.

Muttonbirds for lunch, and

You know, you got a fan. He thinks you're marvellous (so do I). Want a kid? Going cheap… if he's any trouble, pack him home. That'll be a better inducement to good behaviour than any hiding I threaten. Bit of cheek, eh, this letting him go back to you without so much as a word of permit from you. (But it's just before 7, and I don't think you'll welcome a call this early.) Let us know if you're doing something and don't want him round — Piri'll pick him up. Otherwise I will, tonight. Natouhoa Joe G. XXX

Very different note from the formal Thank you of yesterday.

But where's the brat been since 7 this morning? And what's all this about? It doesn't feel right. Yet nobody's stomped on my heart except family, so why am I so mistrustful of people?

A meal, and a chess game or two, and he signs the letter with kisses like a lifetime friend. And this one, grinning like a gargoyle from his chair where he's kneeling, brings a ring for a ring untaken, and the making of a garden of prayers. I don't understand it….

She wasn't smiling back at the child.

Was it being a listening ear for the man?

Someone to tell troubles to? Suspicions?…

And what is the attraction for a disturbed and zany child here?

Me? Nah, he knows I don't much like him.

"What about school though?" undecided what to do. He frowns briefly. Picks the notebook off the table, and weighs it in his hand, then takes a slip of paper from an unsealed envelope in the back of it.

It is another note from Joe, this time excusing his son's absence from school on the grounds of sickness for the week to come.

Simon is writing while she reads it.

I AM SICK SOMETIMES

"Conveniently, like now?" She returns his excuse. "How often do you actually turn up at school? Monthly? Or just a couple of times a year?"

He's writing again. JOE SAYS I GO, I GO

"I'll bet." She thinks, Hell, imagine if they both think I'm going to put up with him all the times he misses. No way.

He is looking at her narrowly.

I KNOW WHAT THEY DO. He stops, searching for a word, his teeth clenching in exasperation.

She sits down at the table again.

"You know what who does?'

He grinds his teeth.

"Is it about school, and your absence therefrom?"

No.

Then he nods.

Shakes his head.

He is actually shaking all over with the effort of trying to find a way to show what he wants to say.

"Is it a word you need? Or a whole sentence?"

He hits the table with the pencil and it breaks. Point smashed.

He puts his face in his hands.

She picks up the pencil, takes out her knife and sharpens it carefully, whittling away little resinous curls of wood. There is a faint fresh smell of cedar: it must have been an old pencil. As she makes a new point on the lead, she says slowly,

"If you like, we could start again at the beginning of this conversation, and feel our way to the words you want."

He puts his hands down on the table and avoids her eyes. He's been snivelling but quietly.

"So. Here we are at the beginning. How often do you go to school?"

MOST DAYS

He looks at that, shakes his head, and with one hand guarding his eyes, amends,

SOME DAYS

"And that's of each week?" Yes, he nods. "For some days of each week, the days Joe says you're to go to school, you go to school. Right?"

He is grinning again. Weirdly, through the tears and the breadcrumbs and the muttonbird grease. MOST TIMES, writes Simon recalcitrant.

"Occasions Joe don't know about, you play hooky? Stay away from school?

"Goodoh," to his nod, privately thinking Ratbag.

The child hugs himself, and his face goes tight again. He points to her face.

"I show an expression of disapproval or something?"

He looks puzzled momentarily, and then shakes his hand, No. He screws up his mouth at the notebook and pencil, and writes reluctantly,

I WONT STAY HERE ALL THE TIME. I KNOW WHAT THEY

DO.

"I'm beat. If you mean you're not staying here all the times you're absent from school, you're dead right. I'll be doing other things often, and won't want you underfoot. But as to this other — you know what who does? To whom?"

Simon looks at the table.

"Hey listen, some things are easier if you're not concentrating on them. Come and do some drawing with me, and forget the lost words for the moment eh? If it's important, you'll find a way to tell me, and I'll find a way to understand."

He slides off the chair and comes round the board table. He stares at her for long moments, his face unreadable. No expression in the intent stare. Then he holds his hand out, reaching for hers.

She gets up quickly, forestalling the contact.

"You'd better have a wash, eh. I mean, I'm going to. Before drawing. Grease and chalk and charcoal don't go well together."

Babbling again, Holmes. He's not contagious.

But hands are sacred things. Touch is personal, fingers of love, feelers of blind eyes, tongues of those who cannot talk… oops.

Simon still has his hand out, and his smile there, turned smirk, as though he knows perfectly well her reluctance to touch anybody's hands and is amused by it.

"What's this for now?" but gives her hand.

Thanks, mouths Simon, kissing her hand, the grin widening after.

O those bloody nonexistent teeth… draw out where they went, anything, but the staying barbs of this gentle courtesy.

Kerewin appalled.

She works with charcoal, every shade of black bearing across the white paper.

Trying again to catch the spider shadow of the morning's dreaming, but netting at random this time.

Smudge. Then a razor fine line, so keenly black it aches. Illusion of looking into a knife-thin ominous chasm.

She makes several more of them, slewed at intervals, and in the midst of them, quite suddenly, near the oily-looking smudge, she has captured something.

He can't help glancing up at the slit window.

He had heard the door bang shut, and the sound of singing, and he had climbed up into that window. But the sounds came closer, and he thought of what the owner of the house might do to him… the ground was far below, the floor inside in shadow at his feet. If he jumped… the pain in his heel had him part-crippled already, and if he hit it on the floor… so he had stayed, stiff and horribly scared.

Two times ago, he had been trapped. And the young man, very young man smooth and bearded, the young man who held his shoulder had pushed him hard against the upright of the fence and

He felt sick to the pit of his stomach, and his mind blackened.

This time! said the voice urgently.

The sun on his back in the window, and how the figure below had turned and looked straight at him, though he hadn't moved at all.

She stands back from the board and looks at it for a long time. Her gut sense says that any alteration will rip the network and allow the lively shadow to escape. Yet it feels unfinished… she closes her eyes hard, and in the dull red at the back of her lids, sees what she needs.

Redbrown, redbrown as red chalk, earthcoloured reminder.

"Stammel and murrey," she murmurs happily, "ruddle and madder and o solferino," hunting with gusto through the chest of chalks.

It had looked with fear and surprise at him, but had made no move to harm him. Sharp flames flickered round it, like small fiery knives. But it listened, listened sometimes with care. And when it found out he was hurt, even that small hurt, it had helped.

The elation built up in him. He battered it down, but it kept coming back. Not again, he told himself, I don't believe it. Not again.

The name was Kerewin Holmes, and he had said it inside himself, melding it to his name, all the times it prowled round the room, or made the meal, or took him up the narrow haunted stairs that twisted upon themselves, like the inside of a corkscrew.

And there were things hanging on the walls, and dark secret places where small trees grew, and gardens of brightly coloured toadstools, and it had passed these as though all houses had such things in their walls.

Even with his hurt and tiredness, the elation kept growing.

Big and strong, strong as Joe, stronger than Joe it came with sure suddenness, Kerewin Holmes covered with flames like knives. And a fierce hidden flame inside it, that sometimes dimmed taking all the over-lights with it, sometimes sank so far down that he was afraid it would never emerge again, and he would be left to face a husk that babbled. It is a beginning again he hugs it close in his inside self, a beginning again, afraid and excited at the same time.

A beginning, and I never thought there would be another beginning. Just the end.

The end is still there, he told himself that while it talked at him.

The words, the words, that chattered and bubbled round his ears… words that had been spoken across his head before, but never to him… many parts to them, to be stored and untangled at leisure. Like 'penitential'-

He can store any sound he wants to, and duplicate it inwardly.

"Aside from the penitential part," says Kerewin again, and her voice seems to float to him across the strange round room.

A border. A deep thick border, encrusting that left side. Make it totally opaque, with nary a vestige of underlying paper showing. Then, skim it out, thin it gradually to a mere shade of itself, finest earth-tinted mist seeping to but not onto the edge of the dark web.

Then one could never be sure that the red was not an evil devouring fog, creeping up to the netted shadow's last stronghold, last retreat.

She grinds the chalk heavily across the paper, layering it, pressing its essence out, until chalk and paper seemed to blend. The red becomes an encroaching fungus that spreads gradually but with terrible sureness to the thing that whines and wriggles and can't get out from between the prisoning chasms that bite down to it like knives.

A fly droned through the air.

He stretched himself quietly on the floor, arms away from his sides, flat on his face, so he went nearly cross-eyed looking at the interwoven grass matting when his eyes were opened.

The elation was still at home in him. It had come to climax last night when her hand and Joe's had touched, with him aching and unsteady and overwhelmed with joy in the centre.

The horror was still at home in him.

It was almost always there.

The only defence he could raise against the dark and the horror and the laughing terrible voice were his golden singers, the sounds and patterns of words from the past that he had fitted to his own web of music. They often broke apart, but he could always make

them new. So he lay prone on the floor, and listened to them, and made Kerewin part of them, part of his heart.

The hours sing by.

She begins a pattern of scrolls, but their coils become tangled and hectic so she screws them to oblivion. She starts on another group of curves. Over on the stand, the creeping fungus with its screaming centre is drying under a coat of clear sprayed varnish. Every time she looks at it, she feels a shiver of pride and satisfaction.

Another real thing! I am not dead yet! I can still call forth a piece of soul and set it down in colour, fixed forever-

The curve-group isn't working out.

"Sss," says Kerewin and swings round at last. "Hey you'" She has forgotten about him till now: his self-effacement is perfect. She looks down, worried that he lies so still, guilty because she had forgotten completely he was in the room. Then Simon turns his head, and his eyes are open and unblinking. For a moment, they look at each other.

Hell, his eyes go funny colours,

but she says gruffly,

"Up. Come and look at this."

He doesn't like it, his face whitening, and his eyes going darker still. He cups one finger in his other hand, tightens the hand as the finger tries to get away.

Kerewin grins with triumph and delight.

"That is it!" hands on hips. "That is exactly what I wanted to show. And even you see it!"

"What have you done?" and picks up the pad before he can take it. "Nothing?"

Nothing.

Joe comes hurrying up the stairs, Simon a step behind him.

"Ready for tea?" he calls. He still has his helmet on, plastic-guarded face, green swelling head, a warrior fresh returned from the mundane war.

She thinks, Berloody cheeky, mate. First send the kid here, and then expect tea again — there's limits to tribal affinities, and is going to say something sharp and icy when the man takes off his helmet and holds it out to her.

"He did tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"Uh uh."

Simon takes the helmet and holds it to her instead.

"About tea," says Joe, eyeing his disorderly son, who has spent the last two minutes dancing round him. He had come down as soon as he heard the bike, and Joe had wondered at his pallor.

He says, "You forgot to say, didn't you?"

Me?

"Yes, you… o crikey, I thought one simple message would be safe enough unwritten. Kerewin, e hoa, I had a brainwave when I sent this one here. Since you gave us tea yesterday, I'd get tea tonight. Did you like your lunch?"

"Yeah, superb. I haven't had muttonbirds for months, and I didn't think the season began for a while."

Joe grins. "Secret source. Well, those were for him staying here, whether he stayed this time or not. I know he stayed, I checked with Tainuis on my way home. So then I rushed and got tea ready. It's special. Wild pork and corn. I even bought a bottle of wine to go with it, and that's something for this beer drinker to do. Why didn't you?" swinging round on his son, "why not?"

He is annoyed that all his effort and anticipated joy may be wasted. "Why not, eh?"

Simon, unfazed, writes SURPRISE on his hand.

"I'll say it's a surprise, but a bloody nice one too," says Kerewin. "I was just thinking about lighting that cursed range and getting some sort of hash for tea, and here I am offered a feast. Wait two seconds while I change my rings to some suitable for dining out in," and she cackles, derisive of herself. "Are you really serious? You actually want me to come and have tea with you?"

"Hell, yes. It's not a joke or anything. Listen, bloody brat, do as you're told, not keep things for surprises. That sort of practice backfires."

The boy nods, about one affirmative for each word.

"Distinctly sarcastic," Kerewin watches him with glee. "Well, it's nice to get a surprise like this, so faulty memory or deliberation, it turns out well. How're we going?"

"O, I got the bike." He takes the helmet from the boy and hands it to her for the second time.

"Not berloody likely!" jumping back like it was a head offered her on a plate. "I mean, where does Simon go?"

"You don't like travelling on bikes?" asks Joe anxiously. "I'm careful, I'll go slow."

Kerewin pulls at her hair. "I keep thinking, the only times I've been on bikes, about what happens to this precious brainpan of mine should we come off."

"That's the helmet's worry… look, truly, I'll go slow. There's not likely to be any traffic till we get to town. And we stick Sim in front as usual. I get caught," shrug, "I get caught."

Okay," she says dubiously, and slides the helmet gingerly over her head. She puts on her denim jacket as they go through the

entrance hall. Sounds are distant and muted through the fibreglass. Joe is talking to Simon, and she can see Simon answer, but she can't follow what's being said. She gets smiles from both of them, whenever she looks their way.

Even behind the man's broad shoulders the wind struck into her face. Swept across her eyes, stinging them to tears, and whipped round those curls stranded outside the helmet. And it was cold. The blow of air against her face bit through her lips and chilled her teeth. The lack of balance she felt, no control over speed or direction, made her feel unaccustomedly small and powerless.

She shut her eyes until the bike stopped, because seeing only the dark was better than the blur that rushed past previously. Not fast, the man had said: then what was speeding like?

"Sheeit," says Kerewin, standing unsteadily. "Remind me to buy a car." She takes the helmet off: her mass of hair is crushed and subdued.

"You know what?" she asks the grinning Gillayleys. "My teeth are numb. What the hell does pork taste like when eaten with numb teeth?"

Unanswerable-

So here we go, walking creepfooted into the Gillayleys' den, following the hand-in-hand two of them.

A neat lawn bordered by concrete paths. No flowers. No shrubs. The places where a garden had been were filled with pink gravel.

The hallway was dim, an unshaded bulb dangling from the ceiling, no carpet. There was not a suspicion of dust anywhere, nor any sign of flowers.

Joe sprouted from a doorway.

"Kitchen," he says. "Come in."

The kitchen is gas-heated, square and bare, almost institutional in its unadorned plainness. Table and four straightbacked wooden chairs. Battered fridge with chipped enamel; stainless steel sink and bench; a scarred clean cooker. There's a decrepit Coronation tea caddy on a shelf over the bench, with a saucer holding soap and sink plug beside it, and at the end of the bench, there is a canvas-covered birdcage on a stand. She is surprised by that, although she can't say for why.

Joe invites,

"Sit down, make yourself at home," and goes on busying himself with the pots on the cooker.

Simon slides round the door. He has a way of edging into a room very close to the doorpost furthest from anyone. He goes to the birdcage, slips off the cover, and snaps his fingers. Joe looks round automatically, and the boy gestures to the cover. "I forgot, and it's your job anyway. Feed him while you're at it."

The bird is a budgie of inquisitive green: it has no sense of occasion or time, cracking its beak and twittering as though the day has just begun.

She looks at it politely while Simon deftly slips in seeds and shows where it runs up and down a ladder, and looks at itself in a mirror. She dislikes birds in cages.

"Get a bottle out of the fridge Haimona, and give it to Kerewin to open, eh."

A semidry white wine: the top snaps off and a very small cloud of whitish vapour oozes out.

Simon makes a noise like Frrrsh, flinging a hand way in the air.

"You'll go frrsh in a minute if you don't give us a hand," says Joe, coming over with a pile of plates and cutlery.

"Sorry. Forgetting my manners," says Kerewin. "Can I give you a hand with the spuds or something?" and Joe smiles, remembering his own offer.

"Nope. Just nourish up your appetite."

"Rightio."

"Haimona!"

So the boy brings the salt cellar and the pepper grinder. A butterdish. Mustard already mixed in a pipkin. A dark sort of sauce, smelling of plums. Pulped apple spread on a wooden plate. A bowl of salad greens that sends fingers of scent stealing all round the room. Garlic, a mild vinegar, lettuce, and is that chicory?

"This appetite is in danger of becoming uncontrollable."

"Zoom," says Joe, and whips across the room with a haunch of basted brown pork on a platter. He waves it back and forth directly under her nose. "Kapai?"

"Ahhh," mock swooning off her chair to be an untidy heap sprawling on the floor, and he nearly drops the lot, giggling.

She must enjoy this. And if bloody Haimona doesn't wreck things, maybe she'll want to come back again.

He scurries back to the stove, an incongruous movement for his wide-shouldered figure, and begins ladling out the corncobs.

Simon is already kneeling on his chair, sharpening his knife and fork together.

"Quit "at," growls Joe when the boy does it in earnest, making a sharp metallic squealing that sets all their teeth on edge. Simon stares back insolently, but stops the racket.

We'll fix you, tama, you keep behaving like this.

But he fills the three glasses smiling, and goes to his seat, and still standing, gives the toast. "Kia ora koe," to Kerewin. "Kia ora korua," she says in reply. While the wine goes down, she thinks

What's strange? No pictures, no flowers, no knicknacks I can see? Maybe, but not all homes have that sort of thing. Is it the barren cleanliness, the look of almost poverty? Contrast that with the brandnew 750 c.c. bike he's got and this wine liebfraumilch doesn't come cheap.

The pork is meltingly well-cooked, full of the sweet slightly gamey flavour of a beast fed in the backbush all its short life. The salad is excellent, and the corn good enough for frozen stuff.

"You're no amateur when it comes to cooking, eh?"

He is strangely bashful. He mumbles under his breath, and Simon mouths SPEAK UP SPEAK UP so obviously that Kerewin sputters and chokes on her wine.

"Shuddup," he pushes his child's hair all over his face. "No more wine for you, smartass."

The boy's been drinking with them glass for glass, although his glass is considerably smaller. Still, his face is flushed and his eyes too brilliant.

"I like cooking," says Joe, "so what do we have for tea? Mainly fishnchips… I'm generally feeling too tired and it's a helluva lot quicker and easier. No dishes either. But every so often, I like to do something special, like this. I learnt how, off Hana. Man, could she cook-" his voice trails away, and he stares over Kerewin's head, his eyes glazing. Shakes his head sharply after a minute and says roughly,

"You touch any more wine and I'll belt you, guest or no guest."

Simon had sneaked himself another glassful, grinning conspiratorially at Kerewin.

Now he subsides to the back of his chair and scowls sulkily at his father.

O dear. It'd spoil the meal if they fight-

She belches quietly, and says, peacemaking,

"That is the best meal I've had since lunchtime, bar none. Seriously, Joe, it was splendid."

Joe brightens, stops scowling back at his child.

"You liked it truly?"

"Man alive, it was, he, kapai"

He squares his shoulders, and the sour expression vanishes.

"I'm glad. It is a small thing to offer you, but I hoped you'd like it."

"So much I'll even offer to do the dishes, and that, friend, is unheard of from a Holmes. At my place, I leave 'em for a month or so until I run out of plates."

"Uh uh. That's my job, and his," jabbing a finger at Simon.

He stands, slightly unsteady, they've drunk three bottles of good German wine between them.

Well, you've got a relief for tonight." She heads for the sink. "E!" he calls out. "We'll leave them for the morning. Let's go sittinroom. I've built a fire. The room'll warm in no time."

to the sittingroom.

He shows her over the house first, the child beside her, holding her hand again, and making surreptitious comments with his fingers. All of them are lost on Kerewin who is using most of her attention to stay straight and look sober.

The house has six rooms, the pattern typical older State house, found in thousands all over the country.

A bedroom with a double bed in it, antiseptically clean, with heavy curtained windows.

"My room," says Joe, flicking the light on and switching it off

again.

"His room," gesturing into a small lighted sunporch. "Sweet Jesus, tama, must you chuck all your clothes on the floor? Pick 'em up."

She gets a good look while the child gathers the clothes and dumps them on his bed. The room is on the righthand side of the hall, going in, right at the back of the house. Sparsely furnished like every room she's seen so far; a wooden dresser against the wall, a three-quarter bed. On the bed though, is a bright coverlet made of squares of crocheted wool; all colours, orange and violet, scarlet and shocking pink and vermilion, cornflower blue and sunflower yellow and limeleaf green. It is the only burst of colour she's seen in the house, excepting the budgie.

That's one thing — everything is so drear. Small wonder the brat escapes twice weekly —-

"Nice counterpane," she says, and Joe answers, "O, Marama made him that. She's Piri's mum, and considers herself your nana, right?"

The boy, having rearranged the disorder in his room, nods. He looks resentful at having had to do it.

"Out," says Joe, and waits till the child has gone into the hall before switching the light off.

Next place on the guided tour?

"O, that's the bathroom."

Spruce, clean tiled floor — hellishingcold on these winter mornings because there's not a bathmat in sight.

Simon disappears into the toilet.

"Go get undressed when you've finished," Joe says to him. "You can stay up a while yet."

He whispers to her, "With any luck he'll flake."

For the first time she wonders whether the man has anything else in mind other than conversation. In which case, he has struck out.

"That's the spare room Only junk in there."

But she realises she misjudged the words. In the sittingroom he says,

"I don't want to give him his dope on top of the drink he had. I didn't realise he was getting himself quite so much, or I would have pulled him up short before. But anyway with luck it'll send him to sleep naturally."

The fire brightens this room, but there is nothing in it otherwise that is cheering. A faded sofa beneath the window that looks out into the street. Three chairs with pale spots and rings from slopped glasses on the arms. And a glass-doored china cabinet with nothing in it.

He has been following her guarded survey, and when he sees her glance linger on the empty cabinet, he chuckles.

"Ask Himi where the stuff inside went," he says cryptically.

"O?" but the man just grins.

He sits on the hearthrug, poking at the fire, whistling softly to himself. He makes no attempt to start small talk, and she appreciates the silence.

Simon comes in, his feet bare. The bandage she had put on, is gone.

Joe says, "All right?" and at the child's nod, "Come here, then." He scrutinises the child's heel and comments.

"So far the splinter has grown to be about as big as he is. Wonder where it'll stop?"

"It was about an inch actually. Big enough if you stepped nn it suddenly, I suppose." Joe's eyebrows rise.

"I thought about half an inch, and then I was being generous. Tough luck, tama. Where did you go to step on it anyway? Probably deserved it, eh."

Simon kneels beside him, but disdains to answer. Instead, he reaches up to Kerewin, inside the denim folds of jacket, to where the rosary is lying.

"O," says Joe, surprise and something akin to awe in his voice. "You're giving them away?"

The boy looks at him, still wine-flushed, but now his eyes are dark.

Kerewin says slowly,

"They were his gift to me this morning, and I appreciate them very much. But maybe an heirloom isn't to be alienated?"

Joe shakes his head. "They're his, to do what he wants with them. More later, eh." Back to his son, "Miracles never cease. Do you remember, hey no. Let's forget that a moment. Kere wants to ask you a question."

"I do?"

He weaves a hand at the china cabinet.

"O yeah. What about the cabinet, Sim? Why's it empty?"

Simon's stare at his father is both reproachful and vindictive.

Toe laughs, at him.

It was a sore subject. Once upon a time it was full of trinkets and junky glass stuff, the sort people give you but you never really

need."

"Really? Well, anyway, the cabinet was stuffed with them. One time Simon got wild at me, I even forget what for now, and cleared the whole lot out. By the very simple expedient of throwing them at the walls. There was one hell of a heap of glass splinters. With weird little bits sprinkled through it — some of those uh mathoms are held together with very strange things. Little springs and sprigs of plastic and odd rubber bands."

"Goodbye the debris of years," she says, not knowing what else

"Yeah, that's what I thought too, after I calmed down. Most of the junk had been souvenirs or birthday presents or wedding gifts. A lot of sentimental memories attached to it, but not much other value." He looks down blandly at his child. "There is a moral to that, Kerewin. Haimona is rough on possessions, his own or others'. I was surprised to see his beads as a gift to you, but it's entirely in keeping with this iconoclast." He ruffles the child's hair back into place. "Hana, my wife, hung some pictures in his room, quite colourful and pleasant. I thought he liked them. They went west a year back, didn't they?"

"You just throw whatever's handy when you get wild?"

"Uh huh," Joe answers for the boy. "From your tea to a half gallon of beer a certain Saturday morning. That little effort nearly brained Piri's two year old we had visiting. Lost skin over that, didn't you?"

The boy has the non-expression on his face again. Utter disinterest.

"Okay, I think we'd better change the subject," says Kerewin, "shatteringly interesting and all as it is."

Joe laughs.

An hour later, the conversation has meandered round to fishing: seafishing, which is Kerewin's favourite and speciality, versus river and lake, at which Joe modestly admits being expert.

"Not really," he says ruefully. "I just know where the fish are to be found. It's getting them out in an orthodox manner that bothers me."

"Ministry of Works minnows," chuckles Kerewin, but he affects shock.

Simon is nearly asleep, but he stirs every time one of them moves to stoke the fire, or pass across smokes.

"Excuse me a minute," says Joe at last, and goes into the kitchen, returning with a round bottle a minute later.

"Come on, tama. Bed time."

Two teaspoonsful of what looks like raspberry syrup.

She looks at the label.

"Trichloral!" the word makes her voice resound in a squawk. "Hell, he's a bit young for that kind of draught, isn't he?"

"I said last night about the sleeping bit," says Joe softly. "At least this way we both get a good night's sleep. Otherwise, it's nightmares at two in the morning, and three hours spent getting him calmed back to normality. And that's no joke night after night after night."

"I shouldn't imagine so."

He's holding Simon as though he were a baby. It renews her sense of the boy's slightness.

"E moe koe," says the man tenderly, kissing the child, dark hair overlapping fair.

"See if you can't do something unusual tomorrow," setting him on his feet, "like be good for a change."

Simon grins, nearly out on his feet. He staggers to Kerewin, holding out his arms, and Kerewin ducks.

"E, he just wants to say goodnight," says Joe.

When was the last time I kissed anybody?

as the child kisses goodnight, and winds his arms round her neck. And stays there. "I'll take him if you like," Joe stands quickly and opens his arms, aware of her increasing embarrassment even if Simon isn't. "I'm not used to children," she says, standing too, and holding Simon awkwardly from her. "Ummm-"

How to pass across one nearly comatose brat who is quite

securely entwined round my vertebral column?

His arms are anyway, scores the snark snidely. A child as a

muffler? Come now-There was a young lady, from Munich

I think, who anxiously said, with embarrassment pink, I can see that you're staring, at the scarf I am wearing. Well, it's kidstuff arranged in a rink.

Ooouuhh.

She stares into the fire as Joe takes the child to bed.

The last time I kissed was with my elder brother, before the big breakup. His kiss tasted of rum. That one's kiss tasted of raspberries, from the drug to keep away dreams. What sort of dreams does he have that are so terrible?

Jetsam, she ponders. The old meaning was goods thrown overboard to lighten a ship… dreams of being left, bereaved, dreams of drowning while your people sink in the hungry waves?

"Joe," as he comes back and closes the door, "do you mind me asking about what you said last night?"

"Not at all. What was it?"

"When you said, apropos of Simon's age, meet some jetsam?"

"O that. Well, it was strictly true for one thing. It'd take a while to explain… are you really interested? I haven't had anyone aside from people in pubs to talk about my odd child for months and months and months."

"I like listening. I we got time. And I'm curious to know what makes him dream nightmares at his age."

"Don't ask him," he says seriously. "He can't explain it to himself, let alone me, and he hasn't enough words to tell other people about

"

He stretches.

"Ooooweee… e, would you like some more wine while I talk? There's a bottle left still, and I meant it all to go with dinner." He stands waiting. "O, and just in case you think I have bad designs, I don't think you do, but just in case and with apologies for raising the subject, I'm not intending to take advantage of you in any way. You know," he has darkened with embarrassment, and fumbles for more words.

"I didn't even think it."

You lie in your teeth.

"You said tea, Joe. It was delicious. My mind ends at my stomach anyway, but I certainly didn't think you were playing some underhand game with it. Like the old-fashioned Drink is the downfall of many a nice girl," she throws back her head and laughs. "Besides, I think I could drink you under the table where wine is concerned. I've had lots of practice."

"So have I," says Joe sadly, "but you'd like the wine?"

"A very good idea."

He lay on his back on the floor,' his arms crossed over his face, and talked. Or rather, recited, as though he had memorised what he wanted to say a long time ago. "Three years back, in early spring, we had a storm of unusual intensity. That's what the radio called it. We called it a bastard. Quote: The town of Whangaroa in the South Island was lashed by a storm of unusual intensity today. Several houses lost their roofs, and a garage near the centre of the town was totally demolished by fierce gusts. Two people are believed to have drowned when a launch was driven onto the southern tip of Ennetts Reef about two miles north of the township. The police are seeking information on the survivor of the wreck… That's getting ahead of things, so I'll unquote." Joe smiled over his arm. But they also mentioned that one of Ben Tainui's prize heifers was; a casualty. They raise Charolais, y'know.".Yeah really?"

Yeah, really. Anyway, about four that afternoon, one of the s round the Head phoned the police to say a launch was in

difficulties off the reef. The sea was rough but the coppers asked a friend of mine, Tass Dansy, if he'd take the boat he used on the Chathams run, and go and have a look. See if he could get a line to her. There were no other craft here anywhere near as good as Dansy's for heavy seas, eh. They tried, Tass and his mate, and two coppers, for over two hours. Tried to get close enough to send a line over for a tow, and by that time the wind had reached sixty knots and was still rising. Eventually, the launch banged into the end of the reef. The coppers and the mate saw three people go overboard, a man holding a child, and a woman. But Tass swears to this day that he saw another man slip over the bow, and he thought there might have been someone else as well. He was in the wheelhouse and had the best view, so he's probably right. But we only found three. They put out a call for volunteers to search the beaches after the launch went down. I went. Hana was seven months gone at the time, but she was okay, and I didn't worry about leaving her alone in the storm. This old place'll stand up to more than that sort of wind."

He sighs.

"Here I am, walking the beaches in a bloody howling gale with seven other mugs, and wondering what on earth possessed me to do so. We were strung out in a long file along the shore. Trover, he was a constable here then, shouted out after about half an hour. I never heard him above the wind, but I saw his arms wave us in and came running. He had found the man, and a very obvious body he made, too. His head had split open on a rock when he came tumbling through the surf. The cap of his skull was sliced off and his brains washed out. It was like a cup, his open head, with the face still there on one side."

"Grisly." She begins to see why the child might have nightmares.

"O Himi wasn't with him," Joe somehow catches the tenor of her thought. "Anyway, this bloke. His face was nice, pleasant, open. Relaxed somehow, as though he didn't care about dying. He was tall and beautifully muscled, a body like an athlete's. He was naked, his clothes probably torn off during his passage in, but none of them were ever found. I never saw his eyes open. Trover radioed the copshop to say we'd found one, and the station 'phoned for an ambulance to come from 'Wera, and we kept on looking. You know my cousin, Piri Tainui?"

"I've met Piri for five minutes, when he picked up Simon on the weekend."

"Yeah. Well, he found the woman. She had drowned apparently. The other constable, some foreign name like Kosinski or something, but he was a nice bloke, tried artificial respiration. It didn't work. Because the lady had a broken neck aside from anything else, the pathologist said. She was partly clothed in a loose blouse thing, with a thonged sandal somehow still on her right foot. Her toenails were

painted black. She was well-shaped, but flabby. I remember thinking, God help me, that she looked a right tart, lying there spread among the weed. Her hair was hennaed. It might have been blond at some stage. The bloke had black hair, by the way, but crewcut. The woman had blue eyes and they were wide open, staring as though she couldn't believe she was dead. She had a watch on her right wrist, which is a bit unusual. The glass was smashed, and it proved useless for identification purposes. Her clothes weren't any help in that line either."

He sits up, and lights a cigarette.

"About half after seven, I was sent back along the beaches, while the others went to scour the far east of the headland. It was dark, very dark, and the wind hadn't dropped any. I had to fight to keep on going, to stop myself from being blown backwards. I hadn't gone that far when I saw something at the water's edge. I thought, ahh Ngakau, it's a weed tangle again, get going. The shore was littered with them, and it wasn't the first time I'd mistaken one for a body, eh. You started seeing bodies everywhere, you know?"

He looks down at the stream of smoke flowing out of his cigarette, shaking his head. "Then I saw his hair… long then, even longer than it is now. He was thrown mainly clear of the water, but a high wave from the receding tide would drag at him. He was front down, his face twisted towards me as I ran skidding over the sand and weed. There was sand half over him, in his mouth, in his ears, in his nose. I thought, I was quite sure he was dead. But I cleaned out his mouth and nose, and pressed water from his lungs, and breathed for him."

He is silent for a minute.

"He has got that of me, I suppose. My breath… I was surprised when he started coughing. I hadn't any hope in my heart at all. He was so small, and limp. We didn't think he was much more than two or three, thin and fair with arms and legs like sticks. Sweet Lord, was he skinny! You think he's bad now," grinning at her, "you ought to have seen him then-"

Silence again.

"His eyes were black, all pupil, and he didn't see me at all. I thought he was a girl at first, you know because of the hair, but when I picked him up I saw his penis. He had on the top half of a pair of pyjamas — still around here somewhere as a matter of fact. Common kind, you can buy them at any Woolworth's. And a life jacket. One of those orange things that are two pockets of kapok and a collar for joining them. They go over your head?"

She nods. "I know them."

"He was almost literally black and blue all over from cold and bruising. I didn't know it till after, but his left hand was smashed, his left arm broken in two places, three ribs on that side were fractured, and both his collarbones were cracked. Like he had hit

something very hard, arm first. I just picked him up, and wrapped him in my coat, and ran back, was blown back, snouting like a lunatic with the wind cutting into my kidneys like a knife. And after that, everything is a bit blurred. The ambulance ride into Taiwhenuawera with two corpses for company. Long waiting, or it seemed like it, in hospital rooms with huge bright lights. Examinations, and him screaming his head off. He seemed to come back to life very quickly. Scared as hell, but even when he was half-conscious, he was clinging like a leech to my hand all the time he could and they'd let him. Shock, exposure, pneumonia, he should be dead, said the hospital, and enumerated the breaks. I stayed the night with him, because he was upset whenever I stopped holding his hand, and Hana came up and stayed with me." He adds, "Did you know Hana was a nurse?"

He leans forward and stubs out his smoke, avoiding her eyes.

"No."

"Two other things," he says, after a while. "He had obviously been in hospital before, and it was clear early on, from the way he reacted, that the other time had been bad. X-rays showed he had had widespread injuries to his pelvis and hips, and they would have kept him in hospital for quite a while, the medics reckoned. The other thing is, he never talked. Screamed, my God could he scream! He was, and is, a fluent screamer. But he never said anything, or acted like he was used to talking. The ENT bloke who examined him said there was no physical reason to prevent him from speaking. He's got all the gear needed, eh. But if he vocalises, he throws up, and violently."

"Words?"

"No, just sounds."

"Hmm."

"Well, there was a coroner's court, to get back to the story. I testified. Piri testified. Tass Dansy testified. Half of Whangaroa testified, one way or the other, and enjoyed it very much. The pathologist said the woman was in her late thirties, the man in his early thirties, and both had been in good health. No distinguishing marks or scars — most unusual, said the pathologist, and left it at that.

"The police never got a report of any people of their description missing, and they made enquiries as far afield as Britain. The bodies and the survivor were, and are, unidentifiable. The one object that might have helped is in two hundred fathoms of current ridden water, and nobody wants to have a go at getting to it. You know, I often wonder about the others on board, because I think there were others. Aside from Tass seeing maybe a couple extra, Himi used to be scared of meeting people, like he expected to see someone from the wreck he didn't want to see."

"How much does he remember?"

"Nothing that he's telling, if he remembers anything at all. Sweet Jesus, he was too young to know how old he was. He didn't even know his name, or if he did, he couldn't ever tell us. Hana called him Simon Peter because he initially reacted to that name most of all. We tried lists of them, hundreds… actually, he reacted to quite a few, some of them odd as hell. We thought they might have been people he had known or places he'd been to or something like that. I'm pretty sure that O'Connor was the name of the people he was with, for instance."

"People he was with? Not his parents?"

"Not according to blood groups, definitely not his parents."

"A real live mystery… what other names?"

"Well, one morning he heard something on the radio and got really agitated. Tried to drag Hana to listen to it. What he wanted to hear was over by the time she got there, so she rang the station and they kindly sent her the news broadcast, because that's what it was. And the item Himi went almost berserk over was about a shark attack on a Dunedin beach."

"O, I remember that."

"Well, where did it get us? Nowhere, because he shut up tight and wouldn't say any more. Another thing used to be Citroen cars. He had a bee in his bonnet about them for some reason. And fires… he doesn't mind them now, but at one time he was even afraid of matches."

"A strange collection… how do his beads fit in? Are they your, were they your wife's?"

Joe shakes his head.

"The case was my wife's, that's all. Those beads were his lucky talisman for over a year. He wasn't separated from them ever. Not in bed, not in the bath, not anywhere. Nobody got to have a good look at them for quite a while. They were in the pocket of the woman's blouse. They were shown to him to see if he knew them. He knew them all right. He grabbed them, kissed the ring on them, and thereafter wouldn't let them go. For over a year, as I said. If you wanted to see them, you had to fight him for them, literally. One time, when the police were still trying to find out who he was, a senior detective type came from Wellington to photograph them, and try and question Himi. He would have been about four at this time, I suppose."

Again shaking his head before a vivid memory.

"And my oath! the racket! We told him we were only going to look at his precious beads, but it didn't make an iota of difference. In the end, I grabbed his arms and pinioned his legs, and carried him out of the room, after Hana had removed the beads. We were regarded as poison for a month after."

"He holds grudges, eh?"

"No," says Joe, very slowly, "no, he doesn't hold grudges. He was

just too frightened of us to trust us for a while, and that's after we had looked after him for over a year. By the way, he's only sort of adopted. Because no-one can find out who he is, it couldn't ever be finalised. And besides, my personal status had altered the last time they asked about him. Hana, and my other son, had died by then."

"I am sorry." They are always inadequate, words… if I knew you better, or I was a warmer person, I would hongi, but-

"Yeah." He sits, looking into the flames. "Timote was ten months old, and Hana was thirty, and they died of flu. Which has always struck me as stupid and unfair. Imagine, flu!"

He spits. There are tears filling his eyes.

She doesn't say anything.

"O drink up, Kerewin. I'm boring you." He puts the bottle down. "Excuse me please, I'm going to check on Himi." He strides out of the room, banging the door shut.

O hell, she thinks, a fine end to the night. He's a right emotional boil, and so's the kid, and I suppose no wonder the both of them.

She looked at the wine settling flat in her glass, and drank it, morosely.

Kerewin, beneath the distant luminous dust of stars: so that's what there is to know of Gillayleys in their queer strait antiseptic haven. She stretched her arms, wide as a cross, and something small and bony snapped in her chest.

She swore, and closed her arms in a hurry.

Snapped a wishbone without a wish… what would I wish for anyway? A return of the spirit of joy? It won't come back by

wishing-Maybe, considering this rintin shambles of a night,

I should wish something for them… for Simon, what? A real name? No, something better. A shield to raise against his dreams, and for the other, a relief of that need he shows so plainly, for dead wife and dead child. But there's only one way to do that, send him to them- Anyway to hell, I forgot to wish.

She walked on, her bare feet sinking in the sand. There was a crust on it from the past night's rain. No-one walked on this beach much.

O chief of my children, primate of woes, come sink in the fleece of your old mother, Earth… but seriously Holmes, there is something wrong with the brat, beyond what Joe says. For that matter, there's something wrong with the fella as well.

Chanting into the night,

"O all the world is a little queer, except thee and me, and sometimes, I wonder about thee."

I know about me. I am the moon's sister, a tidal child stranded

on land. The sea always in my ear, a surf of eternal discontent

in my blood.

You're talking bullshit as usual.

Only what to do about the urchin's bitter dreams? Or the man's

evil shadows — the ghosts riding on his shoulders? The miasma

of gloom that shrouded his lightning smile?

He'd come back into the room, the tears barely dried on his cheeks, cups of coffee in his hands.

"Do you know what? He's smiling in his sleep."

She got the impression that that didn't happen too often.

The coffee was strong and sobering.

"I've got to go to work tomorrow eh."

"That's today now."

"Yeah, that's the hell of it."

"I used to hate that," she said. "Having to get up at some ungodly hour to go to work. Feeling out of kilter with my body time. That's the thing I value most now, that I can get up at five, before the sun's awake if I wish, or stay in bed till tomorrow."

He sighed. "I'd love that. But I work in a factory, work in a factory, work in a factory-"

"I know. I've worked in factories too."

"You know what I think's worst? It's not getting up."

"The monotony? Noise? The twits around you? Bosses?"

"No, being a puppet in someone else's play. Not having any say." He spread his hands and looked through the fan of fingers. "It has its compensations, I suppose. I've paid off the house, and I've got some money in the bank. We're clothed and we eat. All the good old pakeha standbys and justifications. Though it's hard hours. I start at seven and I never get home before five. Sometimes six. Even seven. Too long to be away from Haimona, eh?"

"Sounds it, a bit… what does he normally do during the day then?"

"School," said Joe laconically. "He's meant to go to my cousin's afterwards. And when he goes to school, he mainly does too."

She asked hesitantly,

"If you don't have to work, all the time, why don't you take a break?"

"I'd dearly love to take a decent holiday. I've got several weeks coming to me… but I don't know. I've tried it all ways. Stayed at home, and we got in each other's hair. Sent him to Tainuis while I took off, and he fought Piri's kids, antagonised all the adults, even Marama. And she thinks he's an angel incarnate. So then I tried I one of those bus-tours, last Christmas. We went north. I thought

he might like seeing all the places I grew up in. Something a bit different from here."

He leaned back and lit himself another cigarette.

"Sweet Jesus, was that ever a disaster. I wound up locking him into the hotel bedroom wherever we stayed for the night, and going down to the bar and drinking myself blind. Right way to win friends and influence people, eh. You can imagine what we were like during the day… I won't do that again."

He bent his head.

"I forget how much I paid out for damage to hotel bedrooms, but it wasn't altogether his fault I suppose."

The fire crackled.

Kerewin said,

"You like fishing, don't you?"

"Yeah."

"Well, I could find out whether any of my ex-family are using the baches at Moerangi. That could be an idea for a holiday you might like to consider. Not much to do except fish, but it's nice there. Quiet. Healing."

Joe nodded, looking at her quizzically.

"Ex-family?"

"O, we rowed irreparably…"

We wounded each other too deep for the rifts to be healed.

She sat down on the damp sand, stretching her legs in front of her and leaning back on her hands.

Strange.

Webs of events that grew together to become a net in life. Life was a thing that grew wild. She supposed there was an overall pattern, a design to it.

She'd never found one.

She thought of the tools she had gathered together, and painstakingly learned to use. Future probes, Tarot and I Ching and the wide wispfingers from the stars… all these to scry and ferret and vex the smoke thick future. A broad general knowledge, encompassing bits of history, psychology, ethology, religious theory and practices of many kinds. Her charts of self-knowledge. Her library. The inner thirst for information about everything that had lived or lives on Earth that she'd kept alive long after childhood had ended.

None of them helped make sense of living.

She watched the sealight grow.

What the hell did I offer my sanctuary to him and the brat for? Though I've left myself an out… I can always say They are there. Maybe I should just sneak away to the baches myself… they used to say,

Find the kaika road

take the kaika road,

the glimmering road of the past

into Te Ao Hou.

The moon came out of a cloud bank

Ah my shining sister, bright core of my heart, maybe this year in Moerangi I'll find a meaning to the dream?

A mist was obscuring the depth of stars. The night grew towards dawn. She got up unsteadily and stretched, groaning against the stiffness.

Sitting on wet sand, what'd you expect numbskull? Numb bum, rather… anyway, twenty minutes' walk to bed, and a long lying in… thank God for wine, and so easy sleep. Moerangi can rest holy and ghostly in my dreams tonight.

And as for those teeth? She grinned.

Undoubtedly, somewhere beneath not too distant waves, deceitfully mirroring a babyhood of milk and honey, small ivories….

She stares at the screaming painting.

The candlelight wavers.

The painting screams silently on.

She hates it.

It is intensely bitter.

O unjoy, is that all I can do? Show forth my misery?

All the fire has gone.

She is back in the haggard ash dead world.

She picks up the painting and slides it away behind her desk.

There are a lot of drawings, paintings there.

The new one can scream in company.

And what's the use of keeping them?

A pile for keening over?

"You are nothing," says Kerewin coldly. "You are nobody, and will never be anything, anyone."

And her inner voice, the snark, which comes into its own during depressions like this, says,

And you have never been anything at anytime, remember? And the next line is-

"Shut up," says Kerewin aloud to herself. "I know I am very stupid." But not so stupid as to take this.

I am worn, down to the raw nub of my soul.

Now is the time, o bitter beer, soothe my spirit;

smooth mouth of whisky, tell me lies of truth;

but better still, sweet wine, be harbinger of deep and dreamless

sleep-

"Wordplayer," she says sourly. "Mere quoter," feeling her way down the dark spiral to the livingroom circle.

And until the time Joe wakes, groaning at the shrill snarl of the alarm clock, groaning at the thought of another dull and aching day; until the time Simon wakes, and listens, and dresses very quickly, and exits via the window for his new retreat; until then, Kerewin drinks her way into a kind of cold and uncaring sobriety.

It's as though nothing has changed.

3. Leaps In The Dark

WHAT DO YOU SEE AT NIGHT?

"In dreams?"

He shudders and shakes his head emphatically.

"In the dark you mean? What do I see in the dark?"

No. He waves the paper, WHAT DO YOU SEE AT NIGHT?

"Okay, what do I see at night? Stars?"

No.

"The night itself, like darkness?"

No, no.

"Ah you mean something that can't be seen, like ghosts?"

No, a lot, frowning.

"Hell Simon, I see the same things I see during the day except they are, they seem so dark as to be deprived of colour. I don't see anything different."

He tries again.

ON PEOPLE? scratching his head with the pencil, frown still in place, writing again finally, ON PEOPLE.

"I don't see anything on people. Do you?"

He nods wearily. Then he keeps his head bent, apparently unwilling to look at her.

Kerewin's turn to frown.

What the hell would you see on people in the dark. Shadows in the daytime, yeah, but at night?

It's the word shadows that gives her the answer.

"Wait a moment… Sim, do you see lights on people?"

Head up fast, and his bright smile flowering. O Yes.

In the library, the books spread round them,

"Well, that's what they are. Soul-shadows. Coronas. Auras. Very few people can see them without using screens or Kirlian photography. Only other person I've met before who could see them unaided, could see them all the time, night and day. That's where you had me puzzled, fella."

He touches by her eyes.

"No, I can't see them. I'll bet Joe can't either."

Right, says the boy, grinning wolfishly. He writes quickly, SCARED SAID NOT TO SAY.

"Yeah, I can understand why. It's a bit scary when someone can see things about you that you can't see for yourself… if he said not to say, why'd you ask me?"

YOU KNOW. YOU ANSWER.

I know, I answer eh?

She settles herself more comfortably in the bed, crosses her hands behind her neck and stares into the dark.

Well, I do know a lot. Encyclopaedias of peculiar facts and wayward pieces of knowledge. Myths and legends by the hundred… but not generally the kind of things a child wants to learn.

These odd conversations we hold. Glance and gesture, intuition and guess, brief note and long wordy enquiries and explanations… and Sim drinks up answers so avidly. All kinds of answers. Why? is the boy's motto, why does, why is, why not? Food, weather, time, fires, sea and season, clothes and cars and people; it's all grist to the mill of why.

I know a lot and I answer, but increasingly I have my own why.

Why isn't Joe doing the answering?

When I go to the pub these days, the locals talk to me. I have, for example, been fed incredible tales of Simon's wildness by one Shilling Price. Just as well Joe keeps him toeing the line, he says, or we'd all be bowled over eh?

Bill the barkeep says discreetly that old Shillin's apt to exaggerate y'know? Take it all with a grain of salt, he suggests, and then proceeds to regale me with the time Simon set off all the town's lamppost fire-alarms. He's a bit of a devil, that boy, finishes Bill.

Hmmm. I get the feeling that the child's exploits are only tolerated because Joe is well-liked.

He's certainly a mystery.

The more he comes round, the more I'm intrigued.

His background is old hat to the town, to Joe — but it fascinates me. So why not try and find out who he is? I could kill a bird or two thereby: give Sim an understanding of his dark past, that shield against the dread unknown in nightmares he needs. And Joe, who worries about what he's taken on — I suppose you would worry about fostering a moody little nobody, it might turn out cuckoo in more ways than one — Joe could reconcile himself with a known quantity.

I think it's because Joe's afraid of what might be in his child's past that he keeps Simon on so short a lead. Like tonight, all amicability:

"E Kere! Good to see you again!" mmmm, hongi (it's been all of a day). Picks up Sim, kisses him, "You been good, e tama? Had a good day?"

"Weelll," I'm grinning as I say it, because what happened did look funny. This pintsize hero taking on an adult. Not to worry, I assure Joe, it was just that the mail bloke got a bit huffy when Simon badfingered him. "That replacement fella, who's taken over Grogan's run for his holiday, you know him?"

Joe knows, nods coldly, his eyes on his son. Simon's shrinking back against the wall. I don't get to finish the story because the boy gets hit, twice, hard. "I told you before, don't you ever-"

Apparently, digitus impudicus is out, no matter what the circumstances (the new postie was inept: leaning out of the cab of the van, he missed my mailbox altogether and the letters dropped in the mud. I'm swearing O shit and Sim goes round, picks it all up, salutes the bloke rudely, bloke glowers, goes to cuff him, child ducks, bloke smacks hand against my box, swears. Sim ups him again, bloke practically froths at the mouth. He stamps on the accelerator, and stalls van. I get sore cheek muscles from laughing so much.)

I had already learned that any kind of thieving is totally forbidden. So is anything resembling lying it seems, and woe betide the brat if he doesn't do whatever he's told to, more or less on the instant. The matter is settled right then, thump, that's it. It always looks so ridiculous, Joe hefty and twice his child's size — but that's the way we do it in good old Godzone. Besides, the man is tolerant to a fault in other ways, and he's always lavish with praise, with cuddling and kisses… anyway, the hell with it, what business of mine is it how he chooses to bring up his son?

So. We take up an old cold trail — what clues do we have, Sherlock? (Hey, that's good! why haven't I thought of it before?)

A rosary and a ring. A dead boat in deep water, and two dead people. An inarticulate child, a tongue-locked mind.

So, again. Jewellers, libraries, police, hospital records, natter to Dansy, check out boat registration lists-

She thinks about the possibilities for a long time before dropping off to sleep.

The boy turns up every other day now, regular as clockwork with the morning mailvan (Grogan's back).

"Hello," he says, as Simon scrambles out with her letters. "Nearly hit a cow this morning down near Tainuis' bridge. You know it?"

"Bridge or cow?"

The driver guffaws. "Bloody good," he says. "Other than that, no news. O, except they've got a new barman at the Duke. Just hired today. Not a local." To Simon, "You have a nice day, and

thanks for the help."

Boy earns his ride, says Grogan. "Helps me no end, putting the stuff into all those bloody boxes miles off the bloody verge. Inconsiderate bastards." He winks at Simon. "Won't charge you this week, Sim."

One morning, Grogan leans conspiratorially out of the cab and asks in a loud whisper.

"Do you like having him around?"

"Um, yeah." (Simon relaxes.)

"The old lady and me think it's a bloody good job too. About time somebody did something bloody useful instead of just bloody talk." Slaps Kerewin on the shoulder. "Good on yer, girl."

Hot shit and apricots thinks Kerewin, bristling.

"Hooray," says the postie cheerfully.

"Hooray to you too."

Simon gives him the fingers as the van skids in a half-circle away.

"Watch it you." She shrugs. "Ah, hell, a year of being the eccentric avoidable, and all of a sudden I'm in with the locals."

Me image hath gone down the drain.

Writing,

Hello.

It is six and a half years since I last wrote. Well, six years and five months, and an uncertain number of days, 21 or 22, because I lost track of time then, for a weekend or so-

A lot has happened. I have a home, befitting the eccentricity of a Holmes. I am still myself, iron lady cool and virgin. Maybe not lady. But what to call that sport, the neuter human?

There has been little in the way of true joy.

I don't paint much any longer.

I can't, I can't, I can't.

I have taken to wandering a lot, gyrovague, te kaihau. There is a long desert beach here, my bush, and whispering stands of alien trees. An estuary. The sea all around, waves at night, and my retreat. Unsullied sky (except when I care to build a fire…) I am beginning to wonder why I started this parade of excised feelings again.

O yes.

Dear paper ghost, I know a little more about Simon P. P for pestiferous, prestidigitous, (and as his father has it) pake.

Simon P?

Simon the shadowed. Oddbod, spiderchild. A very unlikely but strangely likable brat. Me new toy is to discover whence Simon the Gillayley came from. Why there is a suggestion of the numinous in his shadow. Who else do I know who listens to the silence of God on lonely beaches? (Ah hah! That would be telling….)

Anyhow, I know more.

And I don't know what's worse: knowing as much nothing as I did before, or being cognisant with this futile misleading much I have now.

The saga:

Armed with the ring and the rosary, I went to the library. In Debretts, after hunting through a thousand dusty pages, found a saltaire with phoenix on flame-nest superimposed. Arms of a doddering Irish earl in his eighties. He had two sons. One died in World War II, and the other popped off in 1956. Remarried, with no issue, was the Irish earl. Fat lot of help.

I looked round the pile of peerages and lesser landed gentry, junk from the old dead world. Five hours of scurrying through those pages, and this is all we've got?

The librarian smiled.

Librarians' smiles look like bookends.

And there wasn't a Latin tag, Mater Compassionem de Virgo, or any such mixture.

Next, the jewellers.

My tame silversmith said the trinket was nice work, maybe fifty years old. Haven't seen any of that coral around for a while. Cabochon turquoises, v. similar to your ring. Very nice amber. Bloodstones — hmm, not really possible to say where these particular bloodstones originated. Can tell you one thing though. The turquoise isn't American, and the gold is very pure. Nowd'youwannasell?

Fat lot of help.

The fuzz really tried to be helpful.

I have a sneaking suspicion they have a sneaking fondness for the bandit child. They let me read all the reports on the dead boatcrew, and the follow-up after. All more or less as Joe told it.

"How's young Gillayley getting on these days?" asked a young constable, brown dewy eyes and a fresh fluff of moustache. "No more escapades?"

"Not recently," said another, "been very quiet out there these days."

They all grinned at one another like it was a conspiracy.

Fat lot of help.

So then, after the jeweller, the police, the library, the hospital records, even the local, it was a dead end. Think sideways. I had a child who was so old. Many tales of infamy. One tale (I incline to the suspicion) of emotionally biased fact.

A ring that led nowhere (you ever meet a ring that went somewhere?).

A rosary that served as an endowment and nothing much else.

An unreachable boat, no registration number known.

Corpses in a graveyard, decently interred after neat indecent dissections.

A strange wayward shut-and-bolted mind.

So what the hell, I wrote to the Irish earl.

Winter grew on — half a month more and it'll be the midyear school holidays, and the urchin won't need lies any more to cover the track of his days. He's grown a quarter of an inch, sideways. He looks that much less like a famine victim. The cheekbones don't sear through the skin so sharply. And he's not nearly as restless.

Behold, Holmes! Anchor and salvation of an erstwhile happy family. I hope. Joe is beamish — when he's not glowering. Joe? Don't let's digress any more, g. reader. But I better record this deathless bit:

Last month SP was an imp incarnate. We were shown a hectic quicksilver series of mood-reversals. For instance, one moment kneeling (it never sits) enjoying dinner, and the next, for some unknown reason, it slams the plate on the floor (the plate broke). No reason given: just a silent snarl as it tromped round my living circle, kicking at the window base Stop that Sim. Kick. You'll break the berloody window and I'm sour enough about the plate. Another boot. Stop it you little bastard, or I'll stop you. And what does Simon the self-possessed do? Breaks down snivelling. Not cries of desolation. An abject self-pitying whimpering. Which continued, despite threats and blasphemy until Joe arrived to take him home (about 40 minutes' worth). What are you crying for? asks the Kati Kahukunu (he's probably my 23rd cousin but we haven't swapped whakapapa yet). Nothing, whines our Simon shaking his hair, nothing. Right, says Joe, belting him smartly across the arse, there's something to cry for. Now stop it.

I can see I do not possess the family touch.

Anyway, back to the reason I dragged you out of the cobweb pile, self-odyssey.

Today I got a letter.

It's an airmail letter.

A sheet of onionskin paper, with a heavily embossed coat of arms. Ah so, phoenix on flamebed and NON OMNIS MORIAR in gothic type underneath. I shall not all die?

Mr (sic) K. Holmes,

The Tower, Taiaroa PB,

Whangaroa, Wetland (Sic),

New Zealand.

Sir,

I am directed by His Lordship, the Earl of Conderry, to acknowledge the receipt by him of your letter dated April 30th. I am to inform you that, if the ring is genuine, and not a copy, then it belonged to

His Lordship's younger grandson. This person, about whom His Lordship has no wish to know anything more whatsoever (underline, I underline) was disinherited for disgraceful propensities four years ago. He is known to have resided in your country during his worldly {peregrinations. His Lordship wishes you to understand clearly that he has nothing further to say on this subject, and asks that you refrain from entering into further correspondence with him on this, or any I other matter. He will not reply to any such correspondence.

I am, Sir,

Yours faithfully, scrawl.

Apparently one Gabriel Semnet, Secretary to His Lordship the Earl of Conderry. Isn't that luverly? Can't you hear aristocratic nerves jangling all the way round the world? Sucks to his ancient overbearingness… though I do like that bit about disgraceful propensities. Wonder what they were? However, assuming this isn't a wild goose chase, I think I have a peer's remittance man to track down in his haunts of vice in this lowly colony of NZ.

I have a purpose in life again!

But I've also discovered I'm a snob. For my first thought on discovering there was a possible though improbable connection between Simon P and decayed Irish nobility, (bastardy? greatgrandsonship? the tenuous link of gifts?) was:

Ah hell, urchin, it doesn't matter, you can't help who your forbears were, and I realised as I thunk it, that I was revelling in the knowledge of my whakapapa and solid Lancashire and Hebridean ancestry. Stout commoners on the left side, and real rangatira on the right distant side. A New Zealander through and through. Moanawhenua bones and heart and blood and brain. None of your (retch) import Poms or whatevers.

This is getting boring, ghost, I'm gonna immure you again. See you in another six years. snapping the book shut.

"Did you know your son might have Irish connections?"

Joe sputters.

"The IRA? Yeah, I'd believe…"

"No, you silly bastard. Look at this."

He reads the letter, frowning.

Where on earth did you come by this? I didn't know anything about it-"

"I did the obvious thing. Went to the library and checked through the reference books until I found a coat of arms that matched that ring. You know, on his rosary. Then I wrote to the bod concerned

and asked whether he had any antipodean relations who might be sporting such a thing, and that's the answer. I wish I could get a photograph of the old bugger. There might be family resemblances or something. To wit, Sim's split chin. Or the eyes. Or something. D'you reckon he looks Irish?"

Joe's still reading.

"Jesus," he says in a worried way, "what does he mean by disgraceful propensities?"

"Weelll, I should imagine in that ingrown aristocracy it could mean anything from an improper preference for Scotch whisky, to a practised predilection for raping the cat."

He chokes on his coffee.

There's a full moon up, and the growing night is cold, silver, serene.

Kerewin sits patiently, chin cupped in her hands, watching the suneater flicker, miss a beat, die.

It's run for quite a while after the sun went down. 18.55.25 she notes, stopping the watch, and entering the time. She adds another dot to the graph — yep, the gradual decline, an inverse phi curve. Strange that the suneater's curve keeps pace with some of her own.

She had begun a book of biorhythmic cycles for herself a long time ago, and when she first began to explore the little machines, she had been curious to find out whether they might reflect cycles too. The suneater's chart has been going for sixteen months: her set, for five years, six years o God this December. And I thought a year would be enough to discover the rhythms of my body and mind… I'll finish it this year. The thing's become an obsession.

For what does five years of accumulating snippets of wisdom add up to? Knowledge that I'm a changeable sort of person-

O well.

She flicks the crystal casing of the suneater. Pretty toy. Pastime. As useful as all my other toys and time-passers. As useful and pointed as myself.

Joe, coming through the library circle doorway next night.

"Himi said you were up this… holy God, what is that?"

A blob of shining light, making butterfly oscillations.

It came from a mirror focused on a crystal to which was attached many fine copper wires. The crystal was set between two magnets, and it was turning blurringly fast.

"O that? One of my little um concoctions? Conundrums, anyway."

He came across and peered at it.

"It's a motor?"

"It might be if I could rig the thing up in some fashion to a driveshaft or belt. But the damn thing just goes phhfft! if you start hooking

other bits to it. So I keep it like that, purring nicely along eating sunlight."

Eating sunlight… he winces.

"How did you make such a thing?"

Horror in his voice and eyes.

"You really wanna know?" She exudes fake eagerness to tell. "Well, I have a grasshopper and haphazard mind y'know, a brain that listens to all sorts of things as well as itself." Patter, patter. "Annnd, one day this idea plopped into my mind that mirrors and sunlight and crystals and magnets and whatnots should… anyway, my gut tingled the right way. So I made it." She flipped a hand at it. "Kerewin's little toy, mark 18."

"But how?"

"I dunno. I've made a lot of the little beasties. One works off 'steam produced by strong sunlight. Very sporadic. Not satisfactory. Another one that I really like works off goodtempered humans. At least, it only goes if you touch it, and only if you're happy. You sulk, it sulks… o, they're fascinating wee things but not useful, if you get what I mean?"

Joe shudders slightly.

"I haven't the faintest idea why they work. Or even how," she adds.

"You give me the cold bloody horrors sometimes, Kerewin."

She smiles, her smile full of fangs.

He thinks,

Sometimes she seems ordinary. She is lonely. She drinks like I do, to keep away the ghosts. She's an outsider, like me. And then sometimes, she seems inhuman… like this Tower is inhuman. Comfortable to be in, pleasant, if you ignore the toadstools in the walls, and the little trees and glowworms in holes by the stairs, and the fact that nobody else in New Zealand lives in a Tower… maybe I've got it all wrong-

He had thought, from Kerewin's guarded talk over the past month

hat she had broken up with her family over a relationship they

didn't approve of. She didn't approve of? That her loneliness, being

apart from her family, had driven her to this part of the country

where none of them lived. He could understand that.

He shakes his head.

Don't worry your heart, Ngakau. Just like her.

He says to Kerewin's grin,

"If I had that thing in my house, I wouldn't sleep until I knew what made it work." She picks it up. "Here you are then."

It burrs on, quivering with light, whining with energy, unholy, in her hand.

"Shit no!" ducking even touching it. "I only meant that it's not normal… I've never even heard of anything like it, and if I'd made it, I'd want to find out o I dunno…"

"My poor innocent suneater…"

She's put it down, and is refocusing the mirror.

"It doesn't worry me. I figure if I'm meant to find out more about it, I will."

He shakes his head dubiously.

"You know what that reminds me of? Things Himi makes. Things he reckons make music."

"O yes. The music hutches…"

… that had been a week ago, when she'd gone for a walk along

the beach. The boy had tagged after. He sat down a little way

apart when she stopped for a smoke. He started picking up

debris off the beach, and randomly at first, and then with a

steady and abnormal concentration, he had built a spiralling

construction of marramgrass and shells and drift chips and

seaweed.

"What are you doing?"

He whistled and pointed to it.

It whistles?

He lay down on the sand with his ear by it, and she went

to him, puzzled. Simon got up quickly. Listen too, he said,

touching his ear and pointing to her. So she did, and heard

nothing. Listened very intently, and was suddenly aware that

the pulse of her blood and the surge of the surf and the thin

rustle of wind round the beaches were combining to make

something like music.

She adds, "They only make music when someone's listening. They're focusing points more than anything, and I'd love to know where he got the idea for them."

Joe says sourly,

"O God knows where. He started making the bloody things about a year ago. Now he's obsessed by them."

He scowls.

(The child, when first discovered building them, had written for him THEY MAKE MUSIC. He was feeling wild and joyous from the vigour of the sea wind and the roar of the sea, and had hugged him tightly, and called him a nutcase. But he was worried by the look in his eyes. Secretly, when Simon was sleeping his drugged uneasy sleep, he had stolen back down to the beach, and examined by torchlight the structure his strange little son had built.

Feeling foolish, he had lain down beside the husk and listened, absorbed, for nearly quarter of an hour. Then he became scared,

"It's different," he assured her. "It's got fourteen kinds of eyeballs in it."

He had gone to especial trouble to get the fourteen different fish. "Even unfroze a whitebait," he told her. "Enjoying it?"

"Yeah," said Kerewin, deftly avoiding another eyeball. She noticed Joe wasn't too keen on swallowing them either.

He admitted when she finished, "There was really only cods' eyes there… unless you count the scallop's… but there truly was fourteen different kai moana. I thought you'd like the macabre touch?"

She looked at him consideringly.

"Mmmm. But you wait and see what's going to be lurking in my next offering."

Despite the hammer she gave him,

("Ah hah, worrying isn't it? Do you eat it, or does it eat you?")

tea this night turned out to be rock oysters.

"The only patch of rock oysters on this coast," says Kerewin triumphantly. "I couldn't believe it when I saw them first. I don't think anybody else knows about them. They're a freak colony. I've taken care of them since I found them, but I figured now they should be harvested for their own good."

They knocked them off the rocks in dozens —

"Kerewin, isn't this illegal?"

"Yep. Isn't it enjoyable?" —

and carried half a sackful stealthily away.

Back in the livingroom circle, Joe asks,

"Do you remember asking us if we wanted to come and have a holiday at a place of yours?"

"Yes." She looks at the dirty white shell, shining white and brown inside with purple shadows where the muscles had hung on.

"Well, I can take holidays soon, and Himi's got the May holidays coming up. Can we?"

"Yes."

He wipes his hands on the seat of his jeans.

"You coming too?" very casually.

She bites the last oyster in half.

"Umm, I don't know."

It is very peaceful. Leaning back, eyes closed, she can hear the, a rattle from something the boy is playing with, the rustle of Joe's paper.

"Hey, did you read this?"

"Nope. What?"

"Some tripe from these back-to-the-landers. You won't believe it, but here goes-

"The breeding of guinea pigs requires a minimum of land, little time, and practically no outlay. They feed on scraps, grass-clippings et cetera, and their flesh is nourishing and tasty. They return a reasonable amount of meat per beast.. shit, they give recipes even! I ask you, can't you just see Mrs Average slaughtering little Mary's pet guinea pig for the Sunday roast?"

She grins, eyes still shut.

"Nope, not yet. But if food ever got really short, I can see the knives come out all over suburbia… they've got a point, these fanatical fellas. The more self-sufficient you are the better."

"I had noticed… don't you bloody dare!"

The sudden yell jerks her eyes wide open.

The boy stands quickly as Joe orders, "Give them here. At once."

A box of matches, tossed to the man.

"Sailing bloody close to the wind, Haimona."

Simon stares back, unmoving, his body taut, his face hard.

Joe throws the box in the air, again and again.

"Just what in the name of all gods and little fishes is going on?" she asks plaintively.

Joe sighs. He catches the box a final time, then holds it up.

"He thinks it's funny to flick matches. You know how?"

He faces the fire, takes out a match, holds it against the striking strip with his thumb, and flicks it. The match flares explosively into flame and arcs into the fire.

"Dunno who taught him to do it," he says wearily. "Maybe he taught himself. But he had one all lined up ready for a go. At you."

She looks at the child, and then down at the floor. There's the match, lying right where the brat dropped it at Joe's yell.

You poisonous little creep.

"You," to Simon. He doesn't move.

"Turn round," Joe has a snap in his voice she hasn't heard before.

The boy turns slowly, insolently slow. He doesn't look at her, staring off to one side.

"I don't think that's funny, throwing fire at people. Why do you?"

The angular face is blank as a mask.

"Ah to hell with you then." Kerewin swivels her chair around, turning her back on him.

"What were you saying, Joe?"

He's still eyeing his son, his own face set and hard.

"Well," eyes unmoving, "Well, I was going to say that I had noticed this place is pretty self-sufficient."

She settles back in the chair again, and makes her voice low and easy.

"I'm a secret back-to-the-lander." She laughs. "Not really, but you know originally this place was going to be a dome or a yurt or an icosa. I was going to build it out of recycled goodies. Run goats and fowls, and a guinea-pig or two, and have a vegetable garden about six acres square. Then one night, while I was still in the planning stages, I sat down on the beach and thought, Holmes, what do you want? Because all these were other people's ideas… nothing wrong with them, but they didn't really fit me."

She lights her pipe, the flame glowing orange in the dim room. She can see Joe relaxing, his gaze now turned to her.

"I decided I didn't want livestock, because they demanded care and involvement… and anyway I'd never wanted them, just eggs and milk and meat. I could get that elsewhere. I'm a fisher, a forager, a hunter-gatherer, not a farmer. I don't grow much, though I like my herbs-"

"And dandelions!" The man is smiling again.

"Wow, you've noticed… I'm probably the only person in the country who nurtures the dear golden souls."

Simon is still standing, left in the dark, rigid and lonely.

She does something she hasn't done before, turns and reaches to him, sitting him down on her knee. For a moment he stiffens, looks at her quickly, his eyes shuttered.

"You're making the place look untidy, wickedness," says Kerewin easily, but she won't smile at him. Something flickers in Simon's eyes, then he smiles tentatively, folding his lids over the light come back.

Don't look in. Nobody look in.

"Mind you," continuing as though she hadn't moved, "I also look after a stand of mushrooms hereabouts, and my patches of puha and my karengo beds are very carefully tended."

"Aue," Joe shakes his head. "E hoa, ka pai."

"What for?"

He stands up, and stretches, and doesn't say why. Just, "My turn to make coffee?"

Kerewin shrugs. "Okay. Good idea."

As he goes past them towards the bench, he reaches out and taps Simon's face. The boy flinches, but the tap can't hurt him.

"Lucky," says Joe, and continues on his way. For a moment, the boy is tense, then he smiles weakly at Kerewin — a lame duck grin, I'm wrong and I know it — and twists sideways, and leans against her.

"You going to sleep?"

He glances up, then puts his thumb in his mouth and starts sucking it.

"Yerk," says Kerewin, grimacing, but makes no other comment.

She says to Joe,

"This place is almost self-sufficient. The range can live off driftwood. There's a coal seam on the property I could mine, and extract kerosene for the lamps if I needed to. I've got four solar panels providing hot water, and two that charge the nicad batteries… only the stereo and the drawing light need the electricity anyway."

"Why the emphasis on self-sufficiency? Do you believe in the millennium or something?"

"Nope. I just like to be able to do most things for myself."

"I've noticed that too," says Joe.

Later that night he said, "You're very tactful." "Peaceloving is the word. There seemed to be a fair sort of row brewing there." He sucked in his breath. "It was a bad thing he was going to

do."

The child is back in his arms, and sound asleep.

"There is a vicious streak in him, Kere, and I'm frightened it might be bred into him." Face full of gentle sadness, "I don't know what to do sometimes."

"Buggered if I would either. Probably pick up the nearest hunk of four-by-two and wallop him with it if he ever does flick a match at me. Warn him." She chuckled.

"Mmm… it's okay for adults, we can hit back, but he'll take on kids, and kids smaller than he is too. Like he fights a lot, when he's at school."

"Candidly, there can't be too many there who've smaller than he is."

"Maybe not… but he starts the fights I'm told. And he fights dirty."

"He likes fighting?"

"I don't think so… well, I don't know. Every time there's trouble, and I go along to find out what started this lot, I get about fourteen conflicting stories. But fairly often, Himi's started it. It's not always the others picking on him."

She puffed quietly on her pipe.

"You, uh, put a slightly different emphasis on a similar statement when you first came here."

He quirked his eyebrows and grinned, impishly. He looks so like Simon for a second that it's funny.

"I couldn't tell you all the bad bits at once."

She laughed.

("All things considered, I don't think he's too bad a kid." O true," said Joe quickly, "I mean, it's so bloody awkward for him not being able to talk out loud. He gets to screaming pitch very quickly with anyone who doesn't bother to try and understand him. Hardly anyone bothers. You're the rarity, eh."

"Yeah, rara avis all right," she kept her face straight.

"He, well, as for the others… they start off with good intentions, I think, but then they get embarrassed, or say he's cute, or put words into his mouth-"

"Hassles," said Kerewin equably.

But she thought about it.

Just for an experiment, she went into Taiwhenuawera, where she hadn't been before, and spent the day as a mute.

She smiled at questions in pubs, and wrote down answers. She went into shops and bought things by listing them or pointing. She had quite a time getting a bus ticket back to Whangaroa.

It was infuriating. Everyone she met talked more loudly than normal, as though the volume would penetrate the barrier of her silence. Many people stared and whispered to each other behind their hands. And some, kind in manner, simplified their speech and repeated key words, as though she were dumb as well as mute.

it

On the Friday night of bad memory, she had gone into her cellar, cultivated spiderwebs and all, and selected a bottle of dandelion wine, first of the vintage she laid down a year before.

She is just sitting down to admire the bottle, 1979 says the label, Estate bottled, when the radiophone goes.

It's Joe.

"Tena koe," he says.

His voice sounds odd, hesitant, timid.

"Tena koe."

Pause.

"Uh, Haimona there?"

"No, haven't seen him today. I thought he was going to school?"

"He was, but I've just met Bill Drew and he says Himi didn't turn up."

His voice has returned to normal.

She can hear the background clamour now.

Joe adds, "There was a bit of fuss this morning. He wanted to go and see you, and I insisted he went to school."

"Fair enough. He hasn't been all week."

"He didn't think so. I had to play heavy father." Pause. "Looks like he skipped it, anyway."

She hears a door bang, and the noise of voices and laughter becomes louder.

"Just a minute, Kere-" Muffled sounds. He's covered the

speaking end. "You still there?" he asks a moment later.

"Of course."

"That was Polly Acker, eh." He laughs. "You know, the lady with Pi Kopunui?"

"No, I don't… wait a mo, is she the one they call the half-nhalfer?"

"Yeah! Half-and-halfer!" He sputters. Now he sounds drunk. "Anyway she just said she saw Haimona at Tainuis' this afternoon. By the gate. So that settles that, eh?"

"Mmm."

"Probably didn't want to go to you because he thought you'd tell on him eh."

She is obscurely hurt by that.

"Bloody hell, Joe, I'm not your son's keeper. I don't give a damn what he does and where he goes, as long as he doesn't annoy me. I'd no more tell on him than-"

"Easy, e hoa, easy. I was just joking sort of… uhh, what's the time?"

"Close to six." It's getting dark, outside.

"You doing anything important? Because it's my turn for tea, ne?"

"Well, nooo…"

The fire's bright. Bream is playing Recuerdos d'Alhambra in the background. Half a dozen potatoes, still in their jackets, are baking in the oven. She's made garlic butter, and has two ham steaks ready to fry. The dusty bottle waits, wine glinting golden inside.

The first bottle… to drink and eat in peace, in music. She's had little enough of her own company these past few weeks, and she is beginning to hunger for solitude.

"Look, what say you come here? I'll send a taxi, you have a night out, meet some of my friends? I'll arrange for a meal."

"What about Sim?"

"O him, he'll be okay at Tainuis'. Marama and Wherahiko think the sun shines outa his arse excuse me. He's the whitehaired boy round there, literally. You'll come? Please?"

Goodbye potatoes in their jackets, ham, and Bream, and dandelion wine… because who's the only live and caring chessplaying friend you got round here?

"Okay man. I'll see you say, in half an hour?" Joe says O hell good, that's good. "You at the Duke?"

"Course!" The background racket blares up again. "God, here's Pi. Looking for his missus." Giggle. "See you Kerewin." Clunk. She stands looking at the radiophone.

Dammit. I don't want to go out. I don't feel like it at all. On the other hand, for a friend he don't ask much… he's given

more than he's got, even taking childminding — if I can in all conscience call my casual overseeing 'minding' — into account.

She puts on her denim jacket, scraping a fishscale off one sleeve, then asks the radiophone operator to get her a taxi. It's the talkative one. Old Eyes-and-Ears. Not to mention tongue. "Hear you and Simon Gillayley have hit it off?" "He's a much maligned child." "And Joe too, they say." "They say what?" "O, just that you've been to his place, and he's been to your place."

He adds hastily,

"They say it nicely."

"They couldn't say otherwise, considering."

"Your taxi's on its way. Uh, considering what?"

"Innocence, built-in chaperone, and the laws of slander," says Kerewin curtly.

The operator choked.

"Of course," he says in a neutral tone. "Of, course."

"Would you put in a call to Wherahiko Tainui please?"

"Well, they're still over the hill at the moment-"

"No they're not. Simon's round there now."

Silence.

"He might be with Piri Tainui, would you mean Piri Tainui?"

He's speaking very cautiously. "I'm sure the old people aren't back

yet."

She frowns at the mike, "You're positive?"

"I've had a telegram to ring through to them as soon as they got back. I've been trying their number every quarter of an hour."

"That's very odd. Would you try Piri then, please?"

The operator breathes heavily.

"I'd like to, but I saw him down at the New Railway just before I came on shift, and I don't think anyone could raise him at the moment."

"But you said-"

"I meant the boy could be at his house. And that hasn't got the phone on. It's the sleepout on Tainuis' farm. Lynn and co used to live there with Piri, and Simon used to go there a lot. Before."

She ignores the invitation to gossip.

"Well, that is berloody odd. I wonder where he's got to then?"

"Uh o," says the operator. "We've been expecting this. You like me to ring Sergeant Trover?"

"No. I'll check with Joe first. Thanks all the same." You incredible busybody you. „

"That's all right," says the operator happily. "Have a nice time.

Click. The taxi driver was taciturn. He said Good evening. Yes to her directions, and nothing thereafter.

She walked up the driveway of the Tainui farm, shivering.

Another frost….

Two dogs in a wire run began to yelp and snarl as she came near the house. There weren't any lights on. She could see the dark bulk of the sleepout: no lights there either. She knocked on the door of the house. No answer. Walked to the sleepout and yelled,

"E Himi! You there?"

The dogs barked louder.

Nothing else stirred.

"Ahh to hell," and walked back to the taxi.

"Pacific Street now."

The taxi driver grunted.

It was darker and colder by the time they arrived at Pacific Street.

There was milk in the box at the front gate. She collected it, checked the letterbox for mail, and tramped up to the front door.

It stood slightly ajar,

"Simon?"

She stands in the hallway, listening.

No sound.

She walks into the kitchen and switches the light on. There's a plate on the bench by the sink, and another in pieces on the floor.

"You just throw whatever's handy when you get wild?"

"Uh huh. From your tea to a certain half gallon of beer on

a Saturday morning."

Breakfast too, by the look of things… she puts the milk in the fridge, and then examines the floor. The plate had been partly filled with porridge: there were splatters of the stuff all over the place. She picks up the broken pieces of plate and puts them on the bench, and cleans up the rest of the mess. She notices that while Joe has left it, he has rinsed his own plate.

The budgie hasn't been covered, the milk hasn't been taken in… looks like nobody has been here since this morning… so much for hunches, thinks Kerewin. Anyway, if Joe is happy about him roaming all round the show, why should I worry?

As she walks out to the gate, the smell of the sea comes strongly.

Of course, she thinks, it's only a couple of hundred yards to the wharves.

The smell of the sea was the smell of blood. He didn't know why the two should smell the same, because they were very different, but they seemed to be inextricably mingled.

Where one was, there was the other.

From where he knelt, it was easy to watch the Tower door.

Kerewin had left. Joe hadn't arrived.

He unwrapped the sack from round himself, and stood unsteadily, shivering.

It's all quiet.

Stupid Clare, he says inside himself, as he limps towards the Tower.

He has called himself that, Clare, Claro, ever since he can remember. He doesn't know if that's his name, and he's never told it to anyone. He has a feeling if he does, he'll die.

Stupid Clare, again and again, with each halt step.

If he hadn't thrown the plate, he wouldn't have got the kicks.

On the other hand, if he hadn't thrown the plate, it might have got worse.

As it is, his face is hot and numb at the same time, and he is lightheaded.

I hope it is warm. O Clare, I hope it is warm.

Joe stands beaming at the door.

"Tena koe!" he cries. "Haere mai, nau mai, haere mai!"

Two or three of the regulars look up from their beer.

Shillin' Price says, "Gidday Kerewin." The barman nods to her.

Joe yells,

"Meet Pi! Missus! And Polly!"

There's a group of people in this corner. Shrouded in smoke, the brown faces stare at her with bright unfriendly eyes.

"Tena koutou, tena koutou," she says, "tena koutou katoa." As always, she wants to whip out a certified copy of her whakapapa, preferably with illustrative photographs (most of her brothers, uncles, aunts and cousins on her mother's side, are much more Maori looking than she is). "Look! I am really one of you," she could say. "Well, at least some of me is-"

"Tena koutou katoa," she says again, lamely.

The old lady Joe had called Missus looks at her keenly, grunts, then says "Hell hell hell."

Polly Ackers spares a glance from her cardplaying to grin at Kerewin, glower at Joe.

"Your turn, fuckwit," she says to Pi.

Pi Kopunui (Joe enlarges, "Pi, he's a cousin on my mother's side eh." High pitched giggling. "Most of them are Tainuis of one kind or another") picks up a card, lays a card down.

"Game," he says briefly to Polly Ackers, then turns to Kerewin.

He comes across and hongis. He is warm and big and smells strongly of beer. "Tena koe, kei te pehea koe?" he says, hugging her. "Joe's said a lot about you these past weeks."

He whispers, "He's got a skinful."

A skinful?

O, he's drunk….

Very

He's very glad she came, Joe tells her and the whole pub, six or

seven times.

Kerewin begins to think of many reasons why she should suddenly go back home.

But after another jug, the man quietens, pales, excuses himself. He comes back looking rather more sober.

The old lady grins.

"He puku mate, nei?" Hell hell hell.

She has a husky kind of chuckle, like a mummified laugh.

Joe grins back at her, weakly. "Ae."

a moment later he says, "Kerewin? Like to come have a meal now?" His voice lowers,

"Sorry about all that."

"That's okay." To hell, everyone gets drunk once in a while.

"I was uh worried that you might not want to come out with me."

"I see."

"I've got a meal arranged-"

"Well, we might as well have it then."

He looks round the pub.

"Piri was coming along too, but I don't see him. He must have flaked."

"At the New Railway as a matter of fact."

"O?"

"The phone operator mentioned it. When I asked him to ring round and find out where Simon had got to."

Joe grips the back of the chair.

"O, Himi's okay. He'll be with the Tainuis."

"He won't. They're over the hill. Still. And he isn't at your place either. I checked."

Anger is welling up in her. Joe doesn't give a damn where the child has gone. And he must have known the Tainuis weren't home when he rang her.

O yes, he knew all right.

His head is downbent, and his knuckles have gone pale on the top of the chair.

Pi is looking at him, and shaking his head slightly. The old lady has stopped puffing her pipe. She holds it inches in front of her, poised and still. Polly is frowning, her eyes fixed on the cards.

Joe sighs, relaxes his grip on the chairback, shrugs.

E hoa, I'm used to him going off, remember. He knows how to look after himself. That's why I'm not worrying much. Everyone Knows him, eh… hell, I expect Morrison or Trover any moment."

There's a forced cheerfulness in his voice.

The other three are all looking at him now.

"Don't you worry, he'll be okay." He reaches for her shoulder, laying his hand there. "But thanks very much for taking a look for him."

She hasn't watched his face fully. She has been looking at Pi and Polly and the old woman. They have all looked at each other and then down at the table, and avoided looking at Joe again.

She has a strange feeling that a chance has passed, but she could not describe the nature of the chance, or even why she feels there was one.

For the first time since they met, she feels alienated from Joe.

All the while she ate and drank and talked smoothly, inconsequentially, the feeling that there was something very wrong between them grew and grew, until there was a wall up.

A glass wall: she talked, watched him respond to the words, watched his words come at her, made a suitable reply. Nothing communicated.

She was glad when Joe said with embarrassment that it ah was rather late, and uh, he would have to get up very early to check on his son's whereabouts, and ah-

His face looks slack and debauched and aged.

"Right," she said cordially, not looking again at his ruined face, "thanks for the evening. I'll see myself home, and if the boy turns up, I'll let you know."

The door is shut.

She had left it pulled to, with the handle on halfcock.

She knows he will be inside.

"Sim? You there?"

Her voice echoes.

No whistle. No fingersnap. No sound.

She shucks off her jacket, and goes silently up the stairs.

No sound yet.

The fire has died down. The coals are coated with ash and little light escapes, but there is still enough for her to see the shape of the child kneeling on the sheepskin mat, head on his arms, arms resting on the hearthbox.

"Haimona? Simon?"

He doesn't stir. His breathing is even, but somehow thick.

Stupid kid, out all day and caught himself a cold I'll bet. And that's a damned uncomfortable position to sleep in. But then he's got a knack of going to sleep at peculiar angles.

She lights the lamp, stirs up the fire, moving quietly.

The child doesn't move.

At last she says, "Hey Haimona," taking him by the shoulders.

Bed for you, boyo, and berloody oath, that means I get the sleeping bag and the floor again, and

Shit and hell.

The child looks up at her, and there's the ghost of a grin on his battered face.

O hell, you haven't been asleep-

Then he turns away, his hand holding hers, and his hand is shaking.

"O shit and hell," she says aloud, but this time she moves, crouching down beside him.

"o hell, boy, what've you been doing to yourself?"

As gently as she can, she turns his head back, hand under his chin. He doesn't resist but he keeps his eyes closed.

His eyelids are swollen, buddhalike, and purple. His lower lip is split, and blood has dried blackly in the corners of his mouth. Bruises across the high boned cheeks, and already they're dark.

He has been struck hard and repeatedly across his face.

She looks at the hands still holding hers. Unmarked.

"Joe hit you?" her voice as neutral as she can make it.

He opens his eyes. No, he says silently, No.

"Who then?" anger running in a hot flood through her. "Bloody who?"

He stares through the slits of his swollen lids.

"Who, Sim?"

He moves his head reluctantly, side to side.

"Someone at school?"

The fingers say, No No No-

"Damn it, someone you know? I know?"

The child is still.

"Ah sheeit, kid…."

She stands, balling her fists, raises them in the air, lets them fall.

"You don't want to talk about it, okay. I'll just get you a doctor, ring Joe, and they can take it from there."

He gropes for his pad, not shifting his head. As Kerewin moves to the radiophone he holds a hand up, and she stops, still looking at him in that cold angry way.

NO DOCTOR JOE OK IM OK

"I'll bet," she says.

He holds his clasped hands up.

"You begging?" asks Kerewin sourly.

The hands come undone as he makes an affirmative.

"Well, don't. What's wrong with getting a doctor? You need one. You scared of them or something?"

A limp finger fall

She realises Yes isn't really an answer.

She looks down at him, shaking her head grimly.

Supposing nothing's broken inside, his skull okay and none of his face bones cracked, then it's only cuts and bruises. It won't scar him. He'll heal well and quick enough. And it's late to call a medic out. But what if he's got… fractures, concussion, deeper damage?

"Joe can decide," and the child actually smiles.

Not very much, but enough for her to decide it's a smile rather. than a grimace.

"I don't know, boy, I really don't-"

The operator is surprised.

"Well, I never," he says chirpily, "at home all the time eh?"

"Not quite home, and not quite all the time… leave that in till Joe answers, will you?"

The burr-burr goes on for minutes.

"Anyhow, how'd you know he was here just from me ringing Joe?"

The operator giggles.

"Feedback. One of the good things about this job, y'know. Tass Dansy, you know him?"

"Yeah, by repute."

"Well, he saw Simon staggering along the road near your turnoff, and when he made a toll-call a coupla hours ago, I asked him, he told me, you know how it is?"

With you, I can imagine.

"Mmmm, what do you mean, staggering?"

"Tass's word, not mine. Is the boy all right, or is something the matter?"

"He's okay. Just a minute, please-"

She turns the sound down, and tells Simon, "Come over here." No please about it. The anger still burns.

He has folded himself back over the hearth box He stands awkwardly, and she can hear him hissing with the effort.

Staggering isn't quite the word, but he's limping badly… sweet hell, if I can get hold of the person who's knocked him round, I'll make them rue the day they were-

"Hello?" says a voice in her ear.

"Hello Joe?"

"Uh, Kerewin? Uhh," she hears him rubbing his face, and the discreet clit! as the operator gets off the line.

"Sorry to wake you up man, but you can guess who's turned

up.'

"Uh. Good.'

Even allowing he's tired, stupid with sleep, and still heavy with drink, that is one hell of a pause.

He asks hurriedly into her silence, "Everything's all right?"

"No."

Another silence. She hears the sound of his fingers massaging his face again.

"Has he done something wrong or something?"

"Or something. Joe, you didn't by any chance mean, when you said earlier that you'd had to play heavy father, that you'd bashed him?"

More silence.

"O no way," but the denial sounds wavery. "Sure, I hit him a couple of times, but — "

"Where?"

"Where you normally hit kids."

His breathing has quickened, and the slur from sleep and drink in his voice has gone.

"Not across his face?"

"Hell no… is he hurt there?"

The deep voice has sharpened with concern; the denial is positive. Now it sounds like Joe as she knows him.

"Well thank God for that."

"E?"

"Ah sorry, e hoa. For a horrid moment I thought, well, someone's been playing amateur gestapo, and I thought, I mean-"

"O God… is Himi right there? Can I speak to him? Now?"

The child is weeping. He takes the mike, and taps it three times.

"E Himi, what's the matter? You all right?"

The small click of the child's nail tapping the receiver once, wait for it, twice.

"I'm glad," says Joe simply. Then he scolds, "Why didn't you come home? Why did you bother Kerewin? Why'd you-"

It seems the tinny distant voice berates the child for minutes.

Kerewin, still wild at an unknown assailant, tires of the scolding quickly.

Why bawl the brat out, when maybe it's not his fault, when maybe it happened near here, when he's hurt, and especially, when he can't answer?

She leans over and plucks the mike out of the boy's unresisting hand.

"You're being boring, Joe."

He stops, shocked. "O Kere, I didn't realise that — "

"Shit, man, he's hurt and all you can do is fill his ears with a diatribe? Be a bit realistic… do you want me to get a doctor?"

He says quickly,

"He's very scared of them. I don't think that'd be a good idea Unless he's hurt badly?"

"Weelll, he's bruised. Bruised a lot. I don't think anything's really damaged though. You want to risk waiting for the morning?"

"That'd be best," says Joe promptly. "I'll pick him up before I go to work tomorrow, and we'll go see Lachlan then. For some reason, she's less of an ogre than the others."

"Okay. It's your kid… you want to tell him goodnight? He's not looking particularly happy."

In fact, he's still crying, leaning against the wall in a sagging hopeless fashion.

"Ae. E pai ana, e Kere, e pai ana."

"That's okay," but the thanks in Maori don't, this time, draw the normal emotional response. He could be saying The moon, the moon, going by what she feels.

"Here's Simon," she says.

"I'm sorry," says the man, "I'm truly sorry. I didn't mean to upset you, when you've been in trouble, to hurt you. I'm really sorry."

The little boy nods, apparently unconscious of the radiophone.

"Take care of yourself, e Himi, and we'll see you tomorrow morning, early. E moe koe, e tama, and kiss Kerewin goodnight for us. E moe koe."

The child holds the mike, staring into it through the blur of tears for quite a time after Joe has hung up.

She washed the boy's face with witch-hazel and warm water, and gave him a mug of hot milk that had honey and some of her manuka brew in it. Then she carried him up the spiral and deposited him on her bed.

It was after she'd collected her sleepingbag that she remembered the limp.

"What's the matter with your legs?"

OK, say his fingers, they're okay.

"Why're you limping then?"

He grimaces. He kicks at the air, a short distance only. But they're OK, the fingers assure her.

"Who kicked you?"

No response.

She shakes her head doubtfully.

"Your legs, boyo… you want some help for them?"

No. He looks at the floor, and then up at her, suddenly smiling. OK, he gestures again, firmly.

But it looked as though he had needed that moment to gather his strength to smile.

"Okay, Simon pake…" and Joe's word for him is right. The brat is as stubborn as they come, when he wants to be.

"You know how to turn that lamp off?"

Yes.

He's leaning against the bed now. She asks again from the doorway, "Who did it, Sim?" His face twists, but he says nothing. She exhales noisily. "So be it. Sleep well, sweet dreams."

But her impatience shows through her voice and gives the words a sardonic ring.

Joe arrived before seven the next morning, creeping up the stairs in the near dark and whistling her awake.

He clucked over his child's bruised face, over the obvious pain he showed walking, and — strangely to Kerewin's eyes — held Simon's hands a long moment, and said something very softly and very quickly, so she couldn't catch the words.

He refused coffee or breakfast for either of them.

"I've got an appointment, out of surgery, so I'll go along now," he said. "We'll see you soon."

She didn't see either of them for over a week.

"What else was there?"

She stands on the footpath, tapping the stick thoughtfully, carefully, against her teeth.

Of course, tobacco. What you came to town originally for. Sweet hell, who else could blunder through life like this but me?

A car slams on its brakes, stopping with a squeal a couple of yards before her. The driver curses and leans on his horn. Up you, thinks Kerewin, and keeps on strolling across the road.

In the sweet tobacco-scented gloom of the little shop, she says to Emmersen behind the counter,

'You ever noticed how the only time traffic moves in this one-horse town is when you go to cross the street? I think they sit there, waiting for hapless pedestrians."

Emmersen grins obligingly. He'd seen the near-accident from the window. He doesn't say what he thinks. Kerewin is too good a customer.

I managed to get you some more of that Dutch aromatic," he says.

"Goodoh. I'll have it. Any Sobranies?"

His eyes flick to the side, "Gidday!" he says, and then he smiles back at her, "I got some, yes."

A pair of thin hands wind themselves round the middle of the stick at her side.

"Well, I never, look who's here-"

Simon P, with a smile all over his face and his eyes green blue as a hot summer sea.

Me! he mouths, and grins more broadly still.

"Yeah, who else?" she laughs and reaches a hand to him.

"Well, possibly me?"

Joe is standing in the shop doorway, with a grin as broad as his son's.

"Berloody oath! I thought you two had gone walkabout or something-"

Ah dammit, slow down heart… ridiculous, ridiculous, you who love your own company, you should be feeling dour not spasming with delight.

"Tena koe," he adds, and comes to her, and places his hands on her shoulders, and hongis quickly. "If we'd known you were going to be glad to see us, we would have come much sooner-"

She shakes Simon's hand, "It's good to see you both again," peering hard at the boy, "and you're looking remarkably good."

"In all senses of the word," says Joe cheerfully. "Has it ever been a quiet week… better get him squashed like that more often eh?" He laughs and scuffles his hand through the boy's hair.

She feels her stomach muscles tense, and the joy leaves her.

"I think not," she says coolly.

But the child is swapping bright smiles with his da: they clearly think the idea funny.

Well, my soul, it takes all sorts to make a world-

She shrugs lightly, and takes her hand from Simon's hold.

"The Sobranies?" she suggests to Emmersen. He is standing smirking at them.

"O yeah, right away… I got a couple of cartons of the black ones, OK?"

"Uh huh. Cigarillos?"

"Something new and special you may care to try… I'll just get 'em from the back."

He nods to Joe, smiles at Simon, and vanishes.

"Ahh," sighs Joe, positioning himself, back to the counter and resting on his elbows.

"Dunno how much you missed us, but we missed you a lot, truly," his dark eyes are serious. "And it was really because we thought you might like a rest from us that we didn't bother you."

"Considerate… I did wonder where you'd got to, briefly."

The boy is climbing his fingers up the whorls carved in the stick: his face is nearly clear of bruising. Only yellowing contusions round his eyes, and at the corners of his mouth. And he's moving easily- one way, she thinks, children have it all over adults. Fast clean healing.

She asks, "Did you find out who was responsible?"

Joe touches a finger to his lips, as Emmersen comes in. "Muri iho, e hoa."

"Have to learn to speak that, one of these days," Emmersen says. "Maybe I'm a bit old to learn though… how about these?"

"Never seen them before. Were they recommended or something?"

Emmersen opens a box.

"Try one," he offers. "The sales bloke reckoned they were strictly for connoisseurs, and I figured you were a connoisseur."

Joe giggles. "Knows how to sell, eh?"

"At connoisseur prices too, I'll bet." She sniffs the slim cigar and rolls it gently between her fingers. Tightly rolled leaf, not too dry. She lights it.

Everyone's looking at her, brown eyes, seagreen, pale-blue: all expectant, waiting for her decision. She keeps them waiting for three draws.

Then she says, "Weelll…" and passes it to Joe.

"O thanks…" He breathes out a fine plume of smoke. "Hmmm…" He hands it back.

Emmersen is twitching with ill-concealed suspense. He smiles anxiously, and she smiles blandly back.

"Haimona?"

She passes him down the cigarillo and the boy chuckles.

He leans against her, holding the smoke in front of him. He makes a performance of inhaling a mouthful, tasting it, and expelling the smoke in a thin jet.

Joe puts his hand over his mouth.

Emmersen's eyes are bulging, and he's gone a strange raspberry colour.

Kerewin asks the child, "You'd buy it, or you wouldn't?"

Emmersen chokes.

Simon hands it back to her. He scratches his head, holds his chin, darts a green glance at Emmersen, obviously wonders whether or no, and finally shakes his head.

Emmersen has gone redder still.

"O bad luck," says Kerewin. "Joe?"

I like it actually. Bouquet a bit tart, and it hasn't got the bold maturity of your Cuban '65, and and…" he's starting to break up. for goodness' sake, put the joker out of his misery, Kere."

Emmersen swallows. "I thought…" he begins, the flush fading From his face, leaving it normally sallow. He swallows again. "I thought," and there is a note of real misery in his voice.

Kerewin interrupts.

I was in two minds about this purchase. I thought if I could have got a majority consensus… anyway, he's too young to know

a decent smoke from your average dockleaf. I'll have what you've got. They are good."

Emmersen's sigh is loud with relief.

"Just for a moment there," shaking his head, "you had me worried…" he's smiling his nervous smile, "though I did think you were having me on, but… but-"

Kerewin smiles too, her lips lean and her eyes narrow.

"But you never can tell for sure," she leers. "On the other hand, the day I take Simon's advice as to what to smoke, is the day I enter my dotage. Hell, he smokes his father's cigarettes."

Joe says, "Hey! What d'you mean…?" and Simon giggles, and Emmersen, busily wrapping up the tobacco and Sobranies and cigarillos before she can change her mind, laughs uproariously.

Joe says with embarrassment they'd been looking for her, because uh he wondered if Himi could stay a couple of nights? He explains in a rush. Wherahiko Tainui's got a bad heart, he's been going over the hill for specialist treatment, now he's been told not to drive anymore, and Marama can't drive, Ben is busy, and Piri's tied up with his job, and the other son is outa town and,

"Berloody oath," Kerewin bangs the stick down hard on the road, "of course Simon can stay. I wondered where he had got the bad habit of begging from. I can hear, loud and clear."

Joe grins shyly. "Well you know, I don't want you to think I'm just using you, as a babysitter. Just visiting when convenient, even if it looks like that. Truly it isn't."

Kerewin says drily that if she had thought that, they'd've both got the message, weeks ago.

She asked, when Simon was in bed, why he wasn't staying with his Tainui relations. Joe looked away from her. "The less he stays there the better," he said bitterly. He never said despite his "Later," who had hit his son in the face, and Kerewin, sensing a family quarrel, didn't bring it up again either.

On the second day, Kerewin said,

"We'll make use of the fine weather. Both the tide and my stomach are right for pipi-hunting. So put your jacket on, eh."

She sighed luxuriously.

"And just think, muttonbirds next month, and the whitebait season soon after. Who could ask for more?"

Simon raised his eyebrows, and then put on a smile so she wouldn't notice the dark seeping into his eyes.

I could, he thought.

The truck stopped beside them, halfway to the beach.

"Kia ora korua," said Piri, climbing down out of the cab. He leant over to greet Simon, then stopped, as though the child had struck him. He tipped the boy's face towards him and studied it a moment.

"Run into another door?" said Piri lightly, and then he turned to Kerewin, his eyes hard. She shook her head, and he looked back again to the boy.

"You didn't run into a door," and Simon stared at him, his face unmoved. "Did you?" as he released the child.

Simon kept on staring at him, without moving his eyes. Piri bit his lip. He started to say something, stopped, then shrugged.

"O well," he said at last. "O well." He smiled quickly at Kerewin, his eyes still hard. "Nutty child, eh."

"Unlucky, but not, I think, witless."

Piri's real grin bloomed.

"Right. Tell Joe I need to see him about a dog when he gets back, eh." He kept on smiling. "He'll understand."

Simon has her hand, and is shaking it unobtrusively. Once, pause, once again. No. Don't. What? She glances at him, but he is staring at his feet.

"Okay, when I see him."

"Right you are," Piri climbs back into the cab. He slams the door. "You going to town or anywhere I can take you?"

"Just for a walk."

"Good day for it. We'll see you later then. E noho ra, Himi, Kerewin."

"Haere ra, e Piri."

Simon didn't let go her hand, nor did he wave goodbye.

The truck vanishes.

"Yeehai, boy, what was that all about? Don't you like Piri?"

He shrugs.

"Well, what was the handtugging in aid of?"

Nothing says the boy, a thumb and forefinger making O.

"I take it all back. You are nuts."

He shrugs again, looking at her with the bland say-nothing expression.

"Beach and pipis then."

"Here," she says, standing right on the edge of the low tide mark. She spades out sand with the butt of the harpoon stick, but water rises in the hole faster than she can throw it out. She resorts to shovelling with her hands. She jars her finger and whoops with delight,

A small triangular shell, like a chip of dirty china. She scooped it out and dug her knife into the back of it, severing the connector

muscles. The shellfish went limp and oozed water. She tore off the top shell and cut the fish from the bottom one, and ate it.

He watches, his mouth agape in horror. She digs again, this time in the middle of a group of siphon holes, and uncovers a colony.

"Want one?" He closes his mouth with a snap, and shakes his head vehemently.

She chuckles, and prises another shrinking pipi from its shell.

He flutters his hand with distress.

"It moves, it's alive? Yeah, I know. So is an oyster when you eat it. And that was what you were enjoying a couple of weeks ago. Very nice, weren't they?"

His mouth draws down.

"I can assure you," speaking thickly, her mouth full of soft sweet and salt flesh, "that an organism like this doesn't feel pain as we do. It doesn't realise its impending death. It's just cut and gulp, and that's it for the pipi." I bloody hope so, anyway.

"You understand Sim?" Schloop, carve, swallow, as she downs another pipi.

The little boy quivers.

"Look, it would be wrong, very wrong, to eat a fowl or a frog alive supposing we had the stomach to do it. But not these."

She hopes he won't ask why, because she isn't sure herself. She suspects it's because even a lowly frog, not to mention a fowl, could make one hell of a racket as you gnawed 'em. All the helpless pipi could do, was spurt a feeble squirt of water and die between your teeth. Dammit kid, you've started to make me feel guilty.

The boy sighs.

He goes away by himself, and stands on all the tell-tale siphon holes.

She follows, and wherever his footprints become many, digs down, and brings up another horde of pipis, thanking the child in a loud voice as she does so, until Simon P is stamping any old where in despair.

"Hey!" she calls at last. "I've got enough. E tenderheart, it's all over, the massacre. You can stop protecting them now."

She giggles over the full kete, and he comes back dumb with rage and glowering, and hits at the bag.

"Go easy, fella. You'll damage yourself, doing that."

He shakes his head fiercely, and begins crying.

"Whatsamatter? You crying for them? Believe you me, this is what their mothers brought them up for-"

Tears dribbling down, channeled toward his pointed chin, Kerewin, you piss me off. She grins at him, standing there hunched and miserable in the winter sun.

"Hell, I wasn't trying to upset you. Much, that is."

He doesn't smile.

"Berloody oath… look boy, to the best of my knowledge, and that's

considerable, it doesn't hurt shellfish to be eaten straight from the shell. Not as it would hurt us to be gobbled up whole. I believe the scientific expression is, the shellfish receives a terminal negative stimulus, okay?"

And I hope the multisyllables intrigue you enough to stop your weeping because I'm beginning to get some kind of guilty indigestion.

He sniffs, sighs resignedly, crouches down by her, and pats her shoulders. Then he holds out his hand.

"O?"

Points to his mouth, and the kete.

"You wanta pipi? After all that bloody fuss?"

She gives him two, ready shelled. He eats them slowly, screwing his face up and weeping all the while. He begs for more when he's finished.

"I do not understand kids," says Kerewin to the world at large, and gets up, to hunt for more pipi.

She lay back on her elbows and watched him wander along the beach. He fossicks, picking up tide debris, bringing it back to her.

She assumes he wants to know what they are, so identifies each object.

"Gull's feather. Wouldn't hazard a guess as to the species."

"That's a segment of sea biscuit. Not for eating, you silly little bugger. It's an echinoderm."

"Um, lamanaria of some kind… lessee, this is the Coast, and it's a roughish beach and the weed's got no side-spikes. Yep. Lessonia variegata for your information, boy, and get it to hell away from here. Sandflies love it for a breeding ground."

"Fishbone. Haven't the faintest idea as to what kind of fish, but the bone's a vertebra."

"That is part of an electric light bulb. Probably chucked overboard by a marauding squid boat. I wouldn't bother keeping it, unless you want to go in for some kind of revengeful voodoo. Then I'll help you."

"O those. Co-eye, kor-fie, alia same tree."

He wrinkles his nose, Yeah?

"That's part of a poem, believe it or not. These are seeds of a tree, golden seeds for golden flowers, seaborne to make more sea-trees. Well, it's a coast-dweller, anyway."

He's still puzzled.

"The kowhai is a tall thin tree, with greybrown bark. It blooms in the earliest part of spring, with flowers that the tui and korimako love. It likes coastal areas, and lets its seeds fall into rivers and the sea. And they are carried to other beaches so the kowhai blooms

through the land. A sea-tree emblem for a sea-people, only the people haven't woken up to the fact they are a sea-people yet… anyway, co-eye English pronunciation, kor-fie Maori pronunciation, alia same tree, getit?"

He reaches over and pats her on the shoulder again. It is a curiously adult gesture from a small boy. He smiles as he does it. Don't get upset, Kerewin, I believe you.

Romance on.

Kerewin lifts her eyebrows until they disappear into the brown bush of her hair.

"And the same to you, urchin… collect as many as you can, and I'll show you how to make a necklace from them. Made so you can plant the seeds at a later date, if you want."

He comes back with a handful and puts them carefully in her pocket. Wanders off down the strand again.

The wayward brat… she squints at the winter sun, and closes her eyes. She keeps seeing scarlet patterns that jiggle and flash.

A touch on her hand.

She stiffens, then relaxes.

"What's up?" closing her eyes again.

He blows in her ear gently, and she shudders at the unexpected breath.

"Meaning?"

He sits back on his heels, and smiles with half-closed eyes, shaking his head all the while.

He'd thought,

knowing names is nice, but it don't mean much. Knowing this is a whatever she said is neat, but it don't change it. Names aren't much. The things are.

Laughing secretly at himself. Because you can't say names, Clare. But he'd come back anyway, and blown into her ear.

A whole stream of names that is. Do you like them? Segment-lamanaria-vertebrae-lessonia-variegata-marauding-voodoo-korfie and ALL.

Her eyes flicked open quick again, and were as sharp and threatening as glass splinters.

It was just air, see? he'd thought hurriedly, my hand was more real, see? But Kerewin didn't ever get really wild. She just sat there, frowning at him.

She'll get to know it, one of these days.

He'd sat, smiling his know-all smile into the sun, until, tired of making explanations for words, he lay down and went to sleep.

The first thing he saw, right by his eyes when he wakened, was the sea biscuit shard. He took his time about waking, doing it slowly

(because it is Kerewin sitting there, still squinting at the sun, still dreaming) until he was clearheaded and calm. Then he picked up the shard: still lying sprawled, he started building. The sea biscuit in the centre, a network of dry marramgrass stalks on top, the feather, a sliver of driftwood, a seaweed bladder, a pipi shell… putting them together neatly, quickly, and it seemed to Kerewin's bemused eyes, inevitably… it finally stands about six inches high, sturdy yet delicate, an odd little temple, a pivot for sounds to swing round-

He moved a few inches to lie down beside it, ear nearly touching the thing.

Slowly his eyes closed, and his mouth loosened, opened. His expression was one of rapture.

Is it being trusted? She tamps the tobacco into the bowl more firmly.

It's almost a feeling of protection I have… because he's leaving himself so wide open? I could sneer, or scold, or stomp on it, or him… but he seems to have decided I'll do none of these things. So that's him trusting me, and this, this peculiar sensation that tightens my chest and throat is the spinoff.

The snark says, Maybe he's discovered how to use a new kind of soundwaves. You know what happens with subsonics-

Ah shuddup-

The child is motionless. If she listens very carefully, she can hear his breathing. It is abnormally slow.

Simon P. Gillayley, no wonder you're considered an oddball. Emotionally disturbed, not all there, says the grapevine… do you do it often, lie before what's essentially a rubbish pile and fall into a trance? What with that, and fighting, and stealing, and absconding from school not to mention home… and anything else I haven't heard about yet?… the hat fits. The reputation's deserved. And yet…

Unbidden the thought drifts in, Why does he trust me?

Why should he trust me? I don't trust anyone, I've never trusted anyone. Not even as a child, when everyone is supposed to be innocent enough to trust the world. Maybe I became too early aware of myself, aware of the shivered base that we all have to build on.

knew too much. The smarter you are, the more you know, the less reason you have to trust or love or confide.

So this one is very stupid?

Simon touches her hand. His eyes are wide open and sparkling, and he's grinning fit to split his face.

"E hine!"

She comes to the car.

"Joe'll be here in a minute."

"I know. How are you? Well in every respect?"

"Yes. I'm fine."

"That's good." He sits back into the shadows a little, his hands folded in his lap.

His face is tired but his eyes are stern, aloof. He is not a friendly looking man.

His wife, smiling and nodding with every phrase he says but not so far venturing a word herself, is small and plump and full of friendship. She had waved out before the car stopped, snared Simon and cuddled him, crooning over him while the old man sat stiff and straight and unsmiling in the back.

Wherahiko Tainui asks, "Was it a good two days?"

"Fair enough. The weather was good."

"And what do you think of him?"

"Who?"

"Joe's boy, Haimona."

"o, Sim." She rubs her forehead thinking, This is an inquisition and so far they haven't even bothered to introduce themselves. Well, Joe said over his shoulder, This is Kerewin, before catching his child up, but neither of them had acknowledged it. She says coolly, "He strikes me as being older than his supposed years, and sort of wild."

"Wild?" Wherahiko pounced on it as though it was an insult, "wild?"

She shrugs.

"As though he is growing up wild. Fey."

Marama says comfortably, "I think I know what Kerewin means, love," beaming at her. "He seems older because he doesn't act like most kids, and he seems wild because he does unexpected things."

"That's more or less it. Wild in the uncontrolled sense."

Wherahiko grunts. Marama says,

"We've heard so much about you, dear. Why haven't you called in?"

"Well…."

"You were probably waiting for an invitation," says Wherahiko, and all of a sudden he smiles, and the wrinkles and creases cause his face to lose all its fierceness. "Now you've got it," he adds, and Marama says, "Anytime you'll be welcome, any time at all."

"Well, thanks. I will call in." Within the next decade, she thinks, still cool at being treated in what she considers to be a rude and casual manner.

"Tomorrow," says Wherahiko.

"What?" She is startled.

He stabs a finger toward Joe and Simon coming over the lawn. "We want to talk to you, or at least, I want to talk to you… Marama can have you after," he grins again. Then his face falls back into its ordinary severity. He whispers, "I need to talk to you about them both."

And she turns bewildered, to watch Joe and Simon laughing and sparring in the sunshine. Two days apart, and they make it seem a year of bitter separation by the way they carry on reunited.

"Tomorrow then dear?" Marama is saying. "Any time you like, Kerewin love," and the two old people flash her smiles.

"I'm invited to the Tainuis' tomorrow," she says to Joe, "and I'm buggered if I know why."

"O, they been wanting to meet you for a while now." He shrugs one shoulder. "I thought they'd never get round to asking you though. They're both very shy."

"That's one thing they didn't strike me as being… I'm a shrinking flower in my own fashion, so what're you doing tomorrow?"

"Avoiding Marama or Wherahiko, I hope," and he says, after her startled "What?" "O there's been trouble between us that goes back to Hana's death. We had a proper — go coming back over the hill." He shrugs that uneasy one shoulder lift again, as though he is hunching to take a blow on his body instead of his face. "It started when I wouldn't let them have Himi to look after when Hana died. They never forgave me. They still think I'm making a pissawful job of bringing him up. Whatever I do with him is wrong… they'll probably tell you some awful lies about him and me."

Kerewin laughs.

'As though I'd believe them… I've seen enough to know you're doing a great job. You've got patience and time and love, and that's what he needs."

He looks at her quickly,

"Yeah, that's what he needs… would you mind if I didn't come with you then?"

Okay. I might see if I can invent an excuse for not going anyway." He looks unhappy, but he smiles gently at her.

Jesus, thought Joe, this whole thing is going to explode and come I crashing down round my ears, but what can I do? What in the name of heaven can I do?

It's not wrong, he tells himself. Well, not bad wrong. What else is there to do?

He won't listen, he won't behave, he won't do as I say, what else] is there?

He hugs himself, deriding the movement of self-sympathy as he makes it (Ngakau, you're as bad as he is).

The feeling of roosting in a false calm, knowing that the mother I of all hurricanes was about to break loose and destroy the world,} was getting stronger daily.

You should explain it, he says to himself forlornly. She'll probably! understand… if they just tell her pointblank… he shudders. I can't tell her yet, it's not the right time. She doesn't know us well enough, know me well enough. Anyway hell, it's not wrong.

He dreads tomorrow.

She remembers the afternoon as a golden easy haze, wound through with talk and laughter. A sweet three hours with the only jarring note her own conscience.

And you were going to turn them down cold.

Drinking the wine Marama bought especially for her visit ("We don't drink," says the old lady, and Wherahiko adds, "The doctor told her and me if we boozed, we'd keel straight over. I don't believe him," he chuckles richly, "but I'm not dead keen to prove him right, eh"): eating the food that had been especially prepared for her ("Ben killed the pig last night when we got home, eh. Nothing like really fresh pork for a roast, though I'd choose to hang him for a while if I wanted him for a pickle.").

And you were going to say you had to see a man about a dog or some such-

She recalls suddenly, while Wherahiko is showing her the family photo album (there is a wedding picture of Joe and Hana, and a family shot of the Gillayleys in their heyday, Joe beaming, Hana a serene non-smiler, Timote a toothless grin, and Simon looking wild and smaller and unhappy, his fingers wrapped in Hana's skirt — "He used to hate having his photo taken," says Marama fondly, as she looks over her husband's shoulder), that Piri had said he wanted to see Joe about a dog.

Piri is still at work. The only other brother here is the eldest son Ben, a short nuggety blackbrowed man who seldom smiles. When he does, it is slow and beautiful like a rare flower unfolding.

Wherahiko asks a lot of questions, about herself, about her work, about the Tower, about her view of the world.

Marama asks a lot of questions, too: what does she think of Joe? what does she think of Himi? What does she think of solo parents? What does she think of Whangaroa? It is always Himi she comes back to. The child is ever Haimona/Himi here, never Simon or Sim. She tells anecdote after story after joke about him and his father. But it is gentle humour, as the inquisition of herself is gentle, and they offer a lot of information about themselves while they question.

They show her over the farm. They hold one another often, two old people sick in body and sound in mind, still eager for life, still eager to share it. When she leaves, they hongi, then hug her in farewell.

"Come back soon!" calls Marama, waving goodbye behind the gate.

"I will too!" she calls back, "very soon!"

She means it. It's been a delightful time.

It's only in the dark of the Tower that she realises they never told her anything about Joe and Simon she didn't really already know.

On Wednesday, Joe rang at midday.

"Hello, guess who's got the afternoon off?"

"You, by the sound of it."

"Right! The stupid machine I push levers on has broken itself, thank God. While they fix it, they said to clear off and enjoy myself on the company's time. I didn't need to be told twice."

"Understandable… what do you want to do? Go fishing or something?"

"Well I thought, since Haimona's at school for once, if you're maybe free?"

"I am." Mooning over old and beautiful sketches she had done two years ago was only being involved in sour reminiscence.

"E ka pai… well, I thought you might like a drink at the pub. Not like last time," he says hastily, "hell, was I ever sorry about that… I was almost glad Himi was hurt, because it meant I didn't have to stay round too long."

"I'm an ogre?" she asks incredulously.

"O no," he sounds shocked. "What I meant was that I had behaved badly, and you knew it, and I knew it, and I knew you knew it."

"Well, to say something very original, that morning I knew you knew I knew you knew, you know. So to speak."

He giggles.

"You do have a knack of saying things so unequivocally."

"Shuddup. I'll see you down at the Duke in about an hour?"

"Beaudy."

And this afternoon is flowing along nicely on small talk and beer. Two in a row, great! she thinks. Then Piri comes over.

"Gidday," she says, grinning happily.

"Gidday," he replies, with a grin for her: it flits over his face and is gone by the time he looks at Joe.

"Get up. I want to talk to you."

Joe puts his schooner down slowly. "Why? I'm drinking with Kerewin. What's so important that you think you can interrupt us?"

"You know bloody well what. Excuse us, Kere."

"Okay," she says with surprise.

There's a side to that little man I would never have expected. All steel and anger… he's walking away as edgy as a cat to a fight.

And Joe walks meekly after him.

Piri says at the other side of the room,

"Have you told Kerewin?"

"Sweet Jesus, no."

"That's the only reason Pa held off. You tell her first, and make it bloody soon. If you don't, we will. He says you deserve that chance. I don't think so."

"Piri, I need a little more time, just a bit," his face twists as Piri turns away, pursing his lips in disgust. "Look, I'm begging you. Just some more time… I don't want to ruin things."

Piri looks at him with unveiled contempt.

"Ruin what? You've already done the ruining."

"Ah hell, I'm under pressure all the time. You don't know what it is to be lonely," he stops quickly, recalling Piri's runaway wife. "I mean, I can't help it if I blow sometimes. And you know it's not just bloody one-sided. He's — "

"Shut up." Piri leans his head back, his eyes half-closed, as though the full sight of his cousin was more than he could stand. "You've turned sour, Joe. You're bent. You've got all the resources of family in the world, and you won't let us help. We've stood enough of it. You're spoiling something special and bright and you fucking know it. I think you enjoy it."

"Don't talk stupid, I don't enjoy-"

"Shut up. That was the last time. You do it again, and it's not just Kerewin we'll clue up. And not just Kerewin's company you'll lose."

He swung on his heel and went out.

Joe looks down, his eyes filling with tears. "You degenerate bastard," he says, but he doesn't mean it for Piri. "There's your word to go ahead," he tells himself. He shrugs hard, as though to dislodge something clutching his shoulders, and goes back to Kerewin.

"Everything okay?"

Now's the time.

But he freezes at the thought of telling. Not yet, he thinks, smiling desperately, I can't tell her yet…

"Yeah, just another snarl-up with damn Tainuis, eh," pushing his hand out as though pushing the quarrel away. "Okay me and Himi go on that holiday sometime next week? When school breaks up?"

"Surely."

Why the tears, man? Why the tears glittering at the sides of your eyes?

A little while later, a lot of beer later, small talk under the bridge and the deep talk now beginning to flow, there's another interruption.

A slender man glides up and stands by Joe. He has a permanent smile fixed to his face.

"Well, well… do introduce us, my dear?"

"Jesus! What're you doing here?"

The man smiles a little harder. "Always a case of mistaken identity… I don't know how I do it." The smile razors coldly over Kerewin. "This is a change… aren't you going to introduce us?"

Joe grimaces. "E hoa, this is another Tainui, Luce Mihi by name. Luce, Kerewin Holmes, an artist."

The man raises his eyebrows.

"Really?" His handshake is cool, his hand limp.

Affected twit, she thinks, smiling as artificially back while saying, "Glad to meet you, the place seems littered with Tainuis."

"O, littered's the word, m'dear. Too apt."

He turns his smile deliberately back to Joe.

"Well, shall I sit down, my kissing coz?"

"Why?" asks Joe harshly.

"Thanks, sweeting. What news in the dear old burgh, Hohepa?"

"Nothing much."

The thin eyebrows swoop up again.

"Hohepa! I've only been here two days, and already I've heard the most fascinating things… Sharon told me a little tale yesterday, for instance. The dear saw sweet Simon over at you know who's… following in his father's, well maybe not footsteps but you'll gather my meaning hmm?"

"Who is you know who?" Joe is not smiling.

"Why, Binny Daniels," and the permanent smile widens a fraction to reveal startlingly white teeth underneath.

Joe looks at his cousin, his eyes snapping.

"I'll see Simon about that."

His voice is too tight, too controlled.

"Deary, Hohepa," each word spaced by exaggerated last vowel

sounds, "that's being a little heavy." He slid out of his seat, cool as a snake. "I was just sharing the news, sweeting. There's no need to get all rough."

He flips his hand. "I dare say the child could stand a little gentle handing. You really should thank Binny. If he was cleaner, and touchable, I would. Even though his taste is generally execrable."

Joe grits his teeth.

"Bye for now, my coz."

Luce fed himself back into the five o'clock crowd.

"That bastard is poison." He is squeezing his schooner viciously as though it was his cousin's neck. "He's bloody poison. A bloody poisonous liar."

Kerewin, who has heard about Binny Daniels, is having difficulty swallowing her beer.

"If you say so," she says at last, pacifically. O hell, I hope so. "If you say so." The easy drinking has clearly come to an end.

He knocked on the door.

Shuffle, shuffle.

Pause.

"Hoose there."

"Joseph Gillayley."

Sucking sound and whistle of breath.

"Geezus Mr Gillayley… gee-zus." The voice trails down to a frightened whisper. "Geesuss, what yer want?"

"Has my son been round here?"

He's been round here all right.

Luce wasn't just making it up.

"He just, he just, was over the fence one day an I said Looklwonhurtyerboy, don't jump like that. He was scared."

"Open the door."

"No." Almost a whimper. More sucking sounds.

Joe studies the flaking paint on the door. Pale dirty green, blistered and sunstained.

One minute more, and I'll kick it down.

"Lissen Mister Gillayley, he didn' do nuthin. Nuthin wrong. I didn' do nuthin wrong.

"He was scared about some money stole in school. So I give him a dollar. He's a nice little boy. That's all."

He'd know the little bastard steals… Christ, when's that going to surface?

But it sounds plausible… except not money for nothing. Not charity from this stinking old faggot.

"You expect me to believe that shit?"

"No."

The chain clinks again, and suddenly the door scrapes open.

"No," says Binny again, "I got me reputation. But that's the honest bloody truth, so Jesus help me."

He is trembling at the knees, his chin is wobbling. There are stains all over his cardigan and shiny trousers. He stinks of urine and stale sicked-up sherry. There is a shine of dribble down one side of his bristling chin.

He holds his chin high though, so the scrawny neck stretches.

"No, I got me reputation," he says again, and lowers his head in defeat.

Waiting for Joe to knee him one, or belt him.

"Did he ask for the money?"

"He sez he was scared about it. I think that's what he sez anyway." The old eyes are rheumy and opaque. "I wouldn't touch your pore little boy, not the way you think. He was scared, he wanted some money. I had some, so I give him a dollar. Christ, there's nuthin wrong wiv that?"

Joe looks at him long and hard, and the old man's eyes flinch, and come back to him, and flinch again, and still return.

"No, there's nothing wrong with that for you," says Joe at last.

I

He went home, and prowled through the rooms until he found the boy in his bedroom.

"Where have you been since school finished?"

The boy gets off the bed, looks at his father sideways, moves sideways, gesturing as he goes, moving faster, faster, panicking now, Out, Out, Out. Joe puts his leg across the doorway, blocking it off just before the child reaches it.

"Where's out?"

A blank stare. Not blank. Scared as hell.

Joe reaches out and slaps him across the face.

"You go to Tainuis' when you're told. Or to Kerewin's. Don't have me chasing all round the countryside after you. You get into trouble too easily. And stop the tears. Marama's not here."

YOU PROM, the boy is writing, finger against his hand.

"Shut up." He puts his hands on his hips. "Luce said you were over at that creep Binn's place. Did he handle you?"

The child shudders, shaking his head No No No, so the teartracks skid off at right angles. He writes again, finger on hand, BINN OK.

"What'd you go there for?"

Simon swallows.

"Come on, save some skin."

MONEY fingers Simon.

"Wise. I heard about that too." He unbuckles his belt. "Shirt off, boy."

The boy looks once to the door, once at his father's face.

As he takes his shirt off, Joe thinks, What the hell, he'll do as

he's told for two days and then go his own way again. I might as well not bother. But he's my child, my responsibility. I've got to do it, wrapping the end of the belt round his fist.

Through the beer fog, he was saying, You promised. Not to hit me on the face again.

That's the only thing he'd mean by You prom.

It irks him.

Why should I feel guilty? Why does he always find some sneaky

way to make me feel bad? He's the bad one.

And you don't learn, Himi, that's why you get the hits. You

won't learn. You shiver already, but as soon as it's over, you'll

be out doing some other stupid thing and earn yourself another

lot.

He shrugs his heavy shoulders.

What else can I do, Hana? What else is there to do?

He hits the boy until he grovels on the floor, gone beyond begging for it to stop.

"Don't go to Daniels' place again, hear? He's not a good man. Bloody old pederast," he mumbles as he buckles on his belt. His own hands are shaking now.

He pulls the boy up from the floor, and then because he is suddenly sorry for him as he stands there swaying, white and sick with pain, he says,

"Look tama, that was for your own good. I'm not much drunk am I? I aren't just mad, am I? It's because you mustn't go there, Himi. I'm sorry to have to hit you so hard, but you've got to learn to do as I say."

Like a voice in his head, You didn't tell him not to go there.

Joe shakes his head.

"Otherwise, otherwise," he looks blearily into the child's darkened tear clouded eyes, "you could get really badly hurt. And I don't want you hurt, tama."

Sweet Christ, don't look at me like that.

"Pedderass?" she scans the note again, wrinkling her nose. "Would you mean pederast?" Simon lifts his open hands to her, I don't know.

Where the hell does he get these words from?

And abruptly, with painful clarity, heard the languid Luce Tainui say, "Why, Binny Daniels." Two days ago in the Duke, and still the hooks in that conversation stick in her throat like a half-swallowed bidibid. She says, swallowing, "A pederast is a person who makes love, has sex that is, with

children. Particularly young boys. Why?"

Anger is starting to drive her heart harder.

Simon gives her another note. The purple shadows ringing his eyes make them curiously luminous and birdlike.

IS BINN?

Sheeit. Binny Daniels is the proverbial dirty old man. A solitary gaffer in a long khaki coat, caught several times and finally put away for a year for feeling up schoolboys. Now he drinks in solitary at the Duke, where the regulars rubbish him savagely and aren't above sly punches, and the barman doesn't serve him very often. He buys half a gallon of sherry and trundles off home to bed with it, early each night.

"Yes, Binn Daniels is. Did he bother you?"

The boy shakes his head, already busy on the next note. He is writing more than gesturing at the moment.

HE GIVE ME A KISS AND SAY I CAN HAVE MONEY ANYTIME. HE STINKS

"Ulp," heart beating hard as haka-stamping, and as war-ready. "That was all?"

It had better be, but the child shifts uncomfortably. He has been moving and walking as though he was a wooden doll ever since he arrived this morning. She half expects to hear his joints click; Simon the graceful burdened with twitches. An experimental act, she'd thought, a phase, a put-on, but now buggery comes to mind. I'll gut and deball the old bastard if he's touched you.

The bruised-eyed child shakes his head, but he means nothing, nothing happened.

NOTHING, he writes, BINN OK.

Nothing, he emphasizes, shaking her hand once, ready to touch as ever but flinching before the cold anger in her eyes.

So I'd better believe you rather than make a fuss. But where'd you get that bruise Sim? And why're you looking so strained? I think I'd better do some asking round. About all sorts of things…

"Good." She says it lightly, and grins down at him. "That stink isn't the only thing sour about that old man. He could do you considerable damage… sunchild, do me a favour?"

Simon, weak at the knees with relief that the flickery swords of flame have been sheathed, and that Kerewin is still Kerewin and not wild at all with him, would do anything in the world for her. His smile is full of promises.

"If you want money, come here for it. I've got more than enough. If you want kisses, there's all your Tainui relations ready and willing, not to mention Joe. But don't go round to Binny Daniels' place again,

eh. Not for any reason whatever. The bloke has a nasty reputation, and he earned it."

He crosses his heart and cuts his throat, I promise, I promise, and he asks for two dollars, and thanks her profusely, and he smiles all the time.

"You been back to Binn Daniels?"

He is startled out of his retreat. No No he says, lifting his head from his arms.

"Where'd you get this from then? You pinch it?"

The boy shivers. No, barely moving his head. His eyes are fixed on Joe.

Kere, he mouths, and his shoulders slide up to hunch by his ears.

Possible, thinks Joe, but is it begged or stolen? and at that moment, Simon offers a note. He is shaking now, a hopeless seemingly uncontrollable shudder.

Joe goes over to pick it up from him. GAVE SHE GAVE IT, but the child won't look at him, and the knuckles of his clenched fists show through as though the skin is transparent.

Ahh, what can you do Ngakau?

Once on Monday night, because the suspense of waiting over

Kerewin's visit to the Tainuis' farm got too great, and the boy

woke up at the wrong time, and blundered into the kitchen

at the wrong time.

No school Tuesday.

Once on Wednesday: Binn Daniels.

School all right, sent home with a headache at lunchtime, God

knows he'd have an ache everywhere else, why not his head?

Thursday.

Sneaked off to Kerewin's Friday morning, but she sent him

home in the afternoon claiming she wanted to draw in peace.

He doesn't remember why he thrashed him last night. It had

been a forgotten, better forgotten night. Only when he'd

wakened the child for breakfast this morning — "Himi, it's

nearly nine o'clock, where the hell are you?" thinking, I'll bet

he's drifted off to Kerewin again — he'd been curled up in

a foetal ball on top of the bedclothes, arms wrapped round his

chest, knees drawn to his chin, and his face still wet from

weeping. He couldn't stand properly. Hunched over and

moaning, he clung to Joe.

"Whatsmatter?" His head was throbbing horribly. "Sweet

Jesus, did I do that?"

Which was silly of him to ask, even considering the nature

of the morning. Who else would?

Don't hit him any more, man. You'll break him again.

He's been kneeling here all of the morning. Keeping out of the way.

The shower wasn't much help. Nor were the aspros.

Ahh god, Ngakau, you and your bloody temper. He eases himself down beside the boy, and lights himself a smoke.

He passes it across to his child,

"You feeling any better?" his voice very gentle.

The boy coughs and hacks on the smoke like he's an old man of eighty, and the tears spin down his cheeks, while his fingers shake on the cigarette, but you can always win him by declaring peace. After a while, he even smiles.

"It's been a bad week, e tama."

The boy leans against him, sideways, gingerly. Joe slides an arm round him, touching and no more. "I think we'll go on that holiday very soon," and Simon grimaces.

He don't want to go? Don't ask for the moment-

"You know if Kerewin's coming?"

She don't say, says the child.

"O don't she?" Joe smiles at him, "o don't she?" he breathes out. He ruffles Simon's hair, smoothes it again. "Tama, you've never told Kerewin, have you?" in the same quiet-as-breathing voice.

His son shakes his head.

"Why?"

There's a long silence.

Because she'll know I'm bad, the boy mouths, and starts crying. Because she'll know I'm bad, he says it again and again, gulping miserably through the silent words, She'll know I'm bad.

"O Christ," says Joe, and cries with him.

He rings Kerewin at two, and gets her out of bed, it seems… she snarls into the mike, "Who the hell is it?" and takes a lot of sweet talking before she's at all conversational.

"Two in the afternoon," he joshes at last, "you'd better admit it's late in the morning for waking e hoa!"

"I had a very late night," she says briefly.

"Drawing?" he asks, and after her "Yes", "Have you finished?"

"Why?"

"Well, Himi really wants to come round, but not if you're busy like yesterday."

"He won't bother me today. I stomped most of yesterday's work to death anyway."

He's sympathetic. Then he adds, The boy is a bit under the weather with flu, does she mind? he truly wants to come?

"If you don't think he's going to keel over or anything."

"No way," Joe assures her, "he's just a bit achy with it." He

doesn't think it's a catching kind, well, he hasn't got it, and he has had every opportunity to… he won't send him for an hour or two yet, but expect a taxi before I go to the pub, eh. "I still got the washing to finish," mourns Joe. "You wouldn't, by any chance, want to try your hand at some interesting washing?"

"No bloody way, man. Okay, I'll expect Simon soon, and you when you arrive, doubtless." "Right," says Joe, crossing his fingers, it might be okay yet, I've patched up all the fights, tama's coming better, it'll be all right, "And thanks from the bottom of my heart, Kere. Ka pai, e hoa."

She breakfasts on coffee and the first of a new batch of yoghurt. After that, a desultory picking at things to do. She makes the bed for the first time that week, picks up her golden guitar, but puts it down without playing anything. She goes upstairs and touches the shelved rows of charcoals and inks, chalks and felt-tips, tubes of oils and watercolours and acrylics; touches them all, no more.

It's the bad mood I woke up in. It makes for an oppressive quality to the day.

She wonders briefly if anything is wrong with any member of her family.

We used to have links… but now?

She opens another bottle of dandelion wine, but only drinks a glassful.

Not even in the mood for drinking? Hell my soul, you must be in a bad way-

Looking down at the sunlit sea through the great sweeping curve of window, Fishing? Nope?

By the sill, in a heap and scatter of shining stones, is the rosary Simon gave her.

Been playing with it, brat? Or you're an indian giver? Where'd I leave it? Ah yes, up a floor in the box with my rings… you been secreting away a few of those too, fella? I better check, later-

She picks the beads up, runs them through her fingers. Amber and gold, turquoise and gold, bloodstone and coral and still more gold. Redolent with luxury: not the sort of thing she could envisage swaying next to a sackcloth habit.

Who owned you? Prayed with you? Played with you?

What prayers said, in what moods? Joy, or grief? Love, or anger, Or tears?

The beads slide by her fingers.

It's a long time since I prayed this way, she thinks. Why not today? Give deity some prayer-flowers. Say hello to the most gracious lady of them all, sister to tuakana sister, blessed among women,

Hello Mary.

She folds the beads in a triple coil round her neck, and walks downstairs, and outside, and away along the beach.

The door is open.

He sidles inside.

He whistles as shrilly as he can.

No answer. No-one home?

The entrance hall is cool and quiet, full of shadowy green light. The crucifix on the rounded back wall is in a pool of light, like it stood under shallow water.

He looks at the brittle metal man, stripped to his pants and nailed to the wood. His face is turned to one side. Right, he wouldn't want anyone to see what was in his eyes.

There is a hole in the brass chest, on top of the swelling ribs. But the metal man's fingers aren't curled tight against the pain.

They stretch out, open and loose, still as prongs.

He shivers.

Why does she keep a dead man nailed on the wall?

Ask her Claro. But keep the smile on, Claro.

He keeps straight, and he walks well, and he smiles in case she comes round any of the stony bends.

But there's no-one upstairs.

The fire is out.;

Ah hell, no-one cares.

He stalks over to the dropleaf table.

There's this bottle on it, full of shivering gold drink. Pale gold, sunlight shot with silver.

The smell comes lazily out, sweet and compelling.

He listens carefully.

No footsteps. No noise.

Besides, she doesn't mind if he has a drink, she's given him plenty of glasses.

So, into the cupboard, squinting over the cups… that's the small orown mug with the blue sigs?… urn, listening carefully to his head, situations whatever the hell they are.

He's had it before. It's the right size, tika size, fitting his hand.

It'll do.

Methodically, he pours a cup, drinks it down steady in one long heady breath, and pours another. And five cups after, he's feeling fine, thank you, easy in the stomach and pleasantly relaxed in the shoulders and back. Only trouble is, the bottle's about shot.

A marine, says Kerewin, throw that marine away.

He wanders to the cupboard, and looks the full bottles over.

That squat and bulbous one, full of green… stuff. Grass juice, maybe?

He screws the cork out of it. The sides of the cork are sugary and they grit as it turns.

And if that's grass juice, spit spit urrkk, it's not the clean healing smell of grass.

It's a rank bitterness, something decayed then pickled.

I'll try anything once, but that's had its chance… how could she possibly drink that? Maybe someone swapped the real drink for rat poison. Cat's milk, piss, like Piri says… something horrible, anyway.

He moves on to the next bottle, and swigs a sample.

Too sour. His tongue is numb under it. He purses his lips and spits the mouthful back into the bottle.

This?

Another gold drink, a darker gold, the yellow of dry gorse flowers nearly. It smells as musky as gorse. He rather likes gorse.

I sat in the middle of that bush one whole afternoon, and nobody could see one damn thing of me-

("Simon! You don't come here censored immediately. I'll I'll I'll….")

They couldn't get in. They would have got scratched to pieces getting through that hole, I did.

Haven't gone there for a while, Clare.

Too wet.

It's a place strictly for summer.

So he pours a cupful of the gorse drink, tastes it… slightly sour, but it only tingles on the lips and tongue… and it goes down smmmoooooth… could stand more of that, Clare.

So?

You got that berloody cup, boyo hokay? Why does she always hokay okay?

It's sokay hokay okay ay? he sings in his head. And tokay… that was another one, tokay.

A drink fit for kings, she says. The Sun King especially. And no, you can't have any. Youth needs juice neither for longevity nor aphrodisiac. Sun king maybe, sunchild no way.

I'm the sunchild, because of my hair… he shuffles his free hand through the length of it.

Struth mate, that mop needs cutting. Six inches more and you'll be treading on it, hah!

… and there'll be another fight.

He shudders.

I can't help it, it's too much… there can't be a fight. I won't. This time, I won't. I'll ask her to say she cut it.

He went to turn round and bumped into the cupboard door. Sat down involuntarily on the floor. It doesn't hit him as bad as he thought it would.

Claro?

Echo.

I think you're getting drunk… the voice that says it recedes through his head back out into… he tries following the voice with his eyes, looking backwards and up into his head until it hurts. Caint be that drunk, stuhupid Clare… he croons, an audible outside singsong to the inside talk.

When you're really full, you don't hurt anymore, and you don't care anymore, says Joe. That's why, tama. Even though you gotta come back for tomorrow, for the night you're safe and sound.

Sound?

Listening carefully, There's no sound.

C'mon, she comes home, you'll get a thick ear or something.

So what's new?

He splashes more of the gorse drink into the cup. Most of it's pouring on the floor, but he keeps going, wobbly as hell, until enough gets into the cup to fill it.

That all tastes rather good. Especially good. Bloody good. He smiles happily and blearily for quite a while, and then frowns.

Why am I happy?

Joe don't get no happy.

Joe gets bloody mean.

Shitty's the word, he thinks sourly. He gets sooo berloody shitty… stop crying, you. I can hear it.

It's me. I always do the wrong thing. I don't, I don't try to, it don't matter what I do, it's always wrong.

He sniffs through a maudlin stage to a realisation that the bottle he's cuddling is empty.

He goes to stand, and slips in the puddle of gorse juice.

That's strange… I'm floating-

It seems to go on for minutes, and then Thunk. Hard on his hip on the floor.

Godbloodyshitandhell.

It hurt. It hurt him a lot.

He picks up the fallen bottle and snarls, I'll show you, throwing it away with all his strength.

A fierce crack! somewhere, and then an odd muted splintering sound, like ice ringing on stone.

Jesus oath, says Simon to his heart, what was that?

Frightened to look, but looking anyway, twisting his head off the floor until his neck creaks.

But there's one hell of a blur hereabouts. . caint see no thing Claro.

Shrug, shrug, kneeling up, and shuffling on his knees to the cupboard, hip aching like it's fresh hit. That's beer. I don't want any damn beer. Sniffs in the next bottle he pulls a top off.

Again. Delicious.

He nurses this bottle carefully to the cup's rim, and pours a bit

in.

Chocolate. Thick and syrupy and sweet.

So clink! knocking the bottle, cheerful again, here's to you Kere and to you Joe he says kindly, silently, sprawled against the cupboard held by his arm, clink, and that's for me eh Clare, and he drinks to them all.

Kerewin stares.

You wouldn't believe it. You couldn't.

You come in, feeling clean and straightened out and high on holiness, and what awaits?

One drunken kid, lying hunched and untidy all over the floor. Snoring like a bluebottle.

Two bottles overturned, and alcohol rife through the air.

O hell, look at the window!

She shakes her head in disbelief.

Two hours and he does this much damage?

Man alive, a six year old debauchee-

Her heart mourns the window (but I can buy another one).

She walks across to the cupboard, avoiding the puddles (O tatami, you weren't got for this… to be good and golden for bare feet not to be… I hope that's drink… still, if the worst comes to the worst, I can always turn it over…) and digs him in the ribs with the toe of her foot.

No response. Not so much as a blink or an off key snore. He dreams on oblivious, sound in his stupor.

It would be kind to let him sleep it off. I'm not kind.

So she picks him up, her heart kicking with a kind of misgiving at his lightness, and climbs the spiral to the shower, and turns the water on at needlespray and coldest. For a minute he lies under the blast, limp as a skin in her hold.

Then he jerks, and screams.

Highly startled, she drops him. She has never heard him scream before.

"He screamed, my God could he scream. He's a fluent screamer-"

It's a fierce high agonising to the ears sound. The child goes on screaming. He starts to fight the cubicle walls, the floor, the water, in a blind panic to get anywhere out. She watches, pulled back clear of his flailing arms.

He's not seeing where he is. He's terrified.

Then, understanding part of his terror, she reaches in and turns the spray off.

The boy crouches in the inch of water, shuddering and retching and sobbing. He is sickly white, and he hasn't opened his eyes yet.

"Simon."

It stills him a little. More shivering and gasping, but the screaming panic is done. So she repeats his name again and again, kneeling down by the shower stall.

Conversationally she says,

"Did you think that was the sea or something? The same water where you almost drowned? I'm sorry, it was a foolish thing for me to do… I didn't think deeply, you see. I just said to myself, the urchin's riddled out of his mind. So many sheets in the wind there's none left to steer the ship with. So get him sober fast. And how to do that? O easy… like in the song, you know it?"

Singing softly,

"What shall we do with a drunken sailor,

ear-lie in the morning?

Put him the scuppers with a hosepipe on him-"

"Only, there's just a shower here. No scuppers, no hosepipe… but it wasn't the wisest thing in the world to do, I admit that now."

He is nearly quiet, only the occasional whimper, though his breathing rushes yet.

She sighs,

"Actually it was a bloody stupid thing to do, eh?"

Godgodgodgodgod, thinks Simon.

It is a beat in his head in time with the drips. With the steady

splat of water running on to the cold steel floor under his hands.

In time with the aching pulses in his thighs and back and

chest and legs.

But listen: snap. Cigarillo case. It is Kerewin.

Scrape of match, and a flare of flame.

The water is nearly all out of his ears.

There's a rattle as she puts the matchbox away.

"So hokay? You know where you are now? Third floor the Tower, all over the shower… or are you still a bit under the weather?"

He puts out his hand, groping blindly, and Kerewin takes it, holds it gently.

"Sorry about that, Haimona. I sure as hell didn't mean to frighten you… wake you up in a rough fashion, yes. I was nasty, I meant to do that. But not to scare you, really."

He shakes her hand, goes to shift upright, and his other hand slips under him and he skids forward on the shining steel floor nearly chinning himself before Kerewin's grip pulls him up short.

"Sweet hell, boy, easy."

She leans in and lifts him to his feet, steadying him out the door.

Rat-tail hair and soaked clothes, a sodden sorry sight.

"Struth fella, talk about a joygerm… but I don't suppose you feel like smiling."

She has conned that the tears are still running off his face mixed with water. He can feel it, the way she's looking.

"I think you'd better have a proper shower," says Kerewin gentle voice "Then you'd better go to bed for a while… I forgot about that bloody flu you're smote with. Help us undone with your clothes, e Sim."

It is because I am tired, he weeps helplessly. I can't stop. I can't say. I can't.

We've had it, he thinks. It's finished and it's all my fault.

He is shaking again.

He can't remember when he last felt this sick.

He makes no protest, gives no resistance. He even helps undo buttons and slide off clothes.

And Kerewin didn't say a word.

Except when he was naked, she took one of his hands, and turned him round carefully, supporting him so as not to make his head spin more, and then she tipped his face up towards her, and stared into his drowned eyes, as though she were seeking a meaning to it there.

"Why didn't you say anything?" There was pain in her voice, "Why did you keep quiet?" but he shook his head.

And that was all she said.

Day into Nightmare.

What the hell do I do now?

O I know what I'm supposed to do. Ring up Child Welfare and report the bloody mess he's in.

"Excuse me, I know a small child who's getting bashed… it looks like he's been thrashed with a whip (but I hope to God not)."

I can just hear it.

"You've known him how many weeks and you never suspected

he was getting so badly treated?"

"Uh, well, he's very good at hiding his pain."

I can just hear it.

She is furious with herself, not only because she must have hurt

him.

Joe, you good kind patient sweetnatured gentlefingered everloving BASTARD.

But I knew all along, herr Gott. Something always felt wrong.

No, I didn't. I had suspicions when he was here with his face battered.

But he never said it was Joe, and Joe didn't admit it was him. I've seen him slapped.

Hell, everyone slaps kids.

I really didn't know. I really didn't. Just the nagging feeling that something was wrong between them, right from the first. Christ, no wonder he always sleeps in that twisted fashion.

Joe.

(No more chess.)

(No more gay and grogging nights.)

(No more joking ritual of meals.)

(No more sweet and drifting conversation.)

(No more heart-sharing.)

(The end of the dream of friend.)

Joe Bitterheart Gillayley, what on earth possessed you to beat up Simon?

I mean, Simon.

That's Haimona, cherished and cuddled and kissed.

That's Haimona, quickwitted laughing eyed and bright all ways.

That's Haimona, all three feet nothing and too few pounds of him.

So okay, he can be a fair little shit at times, but you know why he is.

God in hell, even I know why he is. It's the sick twisted secrecy of it.

I'll bet he threatened the child with murder if he revealed his wounding. And the urchin flinched the first morning I knew him.

(And where did you learn that luverly block? Conditioned reflex, ma'am.)

And by the look of the scars on him, it's all been going on for a long long time. Man, I wouldn't bash a dog in the fashion you've hurt your son.

I'd shoot it, if the beast was incorrigible or a killer, but never lacerate it like that.

Aue, Joe.

From the nape of his neck to his thighs, and all over the calves of his legs, he is cut and wealed. There are places on his shoulder blades where the… whatever you used, you shit… has bitten through to the underlying bone. There are sort of blood blisters that reach round his ribs on to his chest.

And an area nearly the size of my hand, that's a large part of the child's back damn it, that's infected. It's raw and swollen and leaking infected lymph.

That was the first sign I had that something was wrong. Despite his soaked clothes, his T-shirt stuck to his skin.

He didn't make a sound. All his crying was over.

And he wouldn't meet my eyes.

Somehow Joe, e hoa, dear friend, you've managed to make him ashamed of what you We done.

Neat job.

She wiped up the puddles from the matting — the tatami is tightly woven and more or less waterproof — and scrubbed away the stain the creme de cacao had made.

She gathered the shards of bottle, and tapped her nail against the cracked window.

She went and rang a Christchurch number and ordered a new pane of glass. They yelped with surprised joy, Yes Miz Holmes, consider your pane on the way-

… Pane? A massive bowl-like curve, specially made, specially transported, and specially installed. Costly, rather. But the crack was unsightly, a blow to the eyes, although the pane would still keep out wind and rain.

She sat down with a cup of coffee at the ready, and made a fire for company.

Simon is upstairs, sleeping I hope.

(Washed and dried with extreme care: ointment, anointment, much good may they do him. Covered with padding and gauze, all the places where the cuts are open or bone deep A dessertspoonful of milk of magnesia to stop his retching.

"Happens when you drink that much," she lied to him cheerfully, while praying in a cold way that he hadn't been hit too hard in the stomach. The child had managed a sickly grin.

And a cup of warm milk to help remove the taste of the spoonfuls of painkiller and sleeping potion he had obediently swallowed.)

Dammit, I could have fed him ground glass and he'd have passively opened his mouth and sucked it in… may the painkiller work. I can't stand the way he kept on shaking, then wincing.

She sipped the coffee thoughtfully.

Joe will be at the Duke. God knows when he'll get away from there, but he'll probably turn up here soon after. Heaven keep me from kicking the bugger to death when he finally arrives. So, gentle soul, you still have a few hours to decide what to do next. And what can I do?

I can do nothing.

Make Simon keep quiet about this discovery. How?

Say nothing to Joe — at the moment, I'd have to bite my tongue

through.

Tell nobody — let it continue, let the child endure it by himself.

No way.

I could tell Joe, but not tell anyone else.

Who else to tell anyway? The fuzz? The welfare? That means the experts get to wade in, but how does the section in the Crimes Act go? Something about assault on a child, carries a sentence maximum five years, child removed from environment detrimental to physical or mental health and wellbeing… sheeit and apricocks, that's no answer.

But just telling Joe wouldn't do any good… I'd have to look out for the child, and that means getting heavy. Getting involved.

She shivered.

It always happened.

You find a home and you lose it. Find a friend, grow a friendship, and something intervenes to twist it, kill it.

So what the hell can I do?

She takes down a long narrow black-silk wrapped bundle from the niche by the guitars. Lights incense, arranges the table, and manipulates the yarrowsticks. Forty-nine stalks worn to the smoothness and oily shine of muchfingered bone, and somehow they assist a contact with an ancient, compassionate wisdom.

The hexagram given is Kuai, Advancing Again. 'One who is determined to proceed must first demonstrate the offender's guilt in the high court,' it says. 'At the same time, one must be aware of the peril such action will place a person in. As well, one's followers must be made to understand how reluctantly one takes up arms. If this is so proceed, and good fortune comes-'

Peril and guilt and reluctance-

And the mysterious lines of the Duke of Chou, hideously apt, but dismaying:

One walks slowly and with hardship because of flaying. If only one could act as though one were a sheep, and let the decisions be made by a companion, one could still accomplish something of the plan. But advice is not listened to, and alone one can do nothing-

The pine scent of the incense is cool, acrid, remote.

Alone, one can do nothing-

She rocks to and fro.

The amplifying hexagram, made from the moving lines, is Hsu, Biding Time.

Simon stamping along the beach and grizzling audibly. He's

tired and it's cold, and his arms ache from carrying two pieces

of driftwood. (She is carrying what feels like half a ton

deadweight of rata, and Joe is bowed under a mighty pile.)

"We'll soon be home, tama."

"Not long to go now, Haimona."

"Just a little way now, eh."

The snivelling goes on.

Suddenly Joe swings round and down. He crouches in front

of the boy, reaches out and touches him briefly on the lips.

Hush up… in Simon's language. The boy gives him a brilliant

smile. Attention, attention, he loves it.

"Okay, come on up, sweetheart," Joe lifts the child, one-armed,

sets him on his hip, and staggers on down the beach.

She gets down the golden guitar for the second time this nightmare day, but this time picks out the ragged beginnings of a tune. Then it swoops, it flies, it glides… it sounds thin, only the guitar's voice singing the overture to La Gaza Ladra. It needs an orchestra, a synthesiser to do it justice. Or even that music box.

She opens the lid to the gaudy little box, and the melody jangles

out.

"Well well, me favourite piece among others… overture to The

Thieving Magpie and where'd you get it?"

Joe grins. "It's not mine. Himi picked it for himself." He touches

the fluorescent pink lid. "Okay taste in music but eecch colour

sense eh… I was buying smokes last month and he was with

me. Started playing with Emmersen's display of these boxes while

I was talking tips. And Emmersen said suddenly, Hey look at

your kid, he's dancing, and there's Himi showing — "

"Sim dancing? That I've got to see."

"He does it a lot… play the tune, and you'll see soon enough. Anyway, he fell in love with this thing, and I like to see him happy. I said leave it alone, but gave Emmy the wink and he picked it up without Himi seeing and stuck it in with the rest of the gear."

He beams at her. "You should've seen tama's face when I unloaded it. He still plays it about twenty times a day. When he's home."

She thinks, I'll wait. I'll do nothing except watch out for the brat. Say nothing to Joe but wait for a good time to tell him my mind on the whole bloody thing. Preferably with my fists.

And I feel eyes on me.

She turns to the door.

"Hullo."

What else to say? Somehow, knowing about the Crosshatch of open weals and scars that disfigure the child has made him back into a stranger.

He's wan and unsteady and there's a look on his face as though he's just chewed bile. Very sour, very surly brat. He stands there scowling, wrapped in one of her silk shirts.

"Quick sleep?"

He hasn't reacted to her words, standing there, shaking steadily, but his eyebrows still superiorly high.

It is a surprisingly arrogant look, nose in the air, highchinned, proud-headed. The aloofness of his bearing, wobble and quiver and all — the fact that he still manages to look aloof despite the shakes

is offensive.

And what the hell have I done to deserve this coldshoulder

carryon?

You do this too often, and I can understand why Joe would

have a go at you… ah come on, Holmes! Bash him like he has been because he's indulging in some kind of kiddy snubbing? And how often does he do it? Never before to you.

But she is staring as coldly, as arrogantly back.

And then the child slumps, slithers down to a heap on the floor, a very surprised look coming over his face as though he didn't intend doing this at all.

And all Kerewin can think of, in her guilty astonishment, is to say,

"Are you okay?"

"That flu you mentioned?" says Kerewin.

"Uh huh."

"I think it's caught up with him."

"Uh huh. He okay?"

"He's better in bed than out of it, I think. I gave him a drink and some dope, and a hottie and one of my shirts for pyjamas, and sent him off to bed."

"Great."

The man's practically asleep, sprawled lithe and careless as his son can be on the sheepskin mat in front of the fire.

He greeted Kerewin fondly and drunkenly an hour ago, gave her the parcel of chicken pieces he'd won in a pub raffle, raved on about a game he'd seen played in the afternoon, sipped a coffee, and then curled up by the fire.

He hasn't noticed anything untoward. Her manner may be reserved, her voice tight and controlled, but he's got warmth and companionship enough for a dozen, and he's determined to give some away. And after the talk, he's determined to go to sleep.

Why bring Himi up now, thinks Joe dreamily. It's good he's gone to bed because it's late, and if he's caught a flu — did I say he caught the flu? — well, he'll get over it all right. He's rarely that kind of ill.

"But as soon as he's better, it might be an idea we head south for that holiday, eh."

That penetrates.

Joe raises his head.

"We?" he asks joyfully. "All of us? You coming too?"

"Yes," she says. "I think it might be a damn good idea if I come along in case you," she stutters over the next few words,

Bite or slight or might happen? thinks Joe sleepily, I dunno-

as she finishes, "and anyhow, I can use a change of scenery too."

Joe grins slowly and secretly, hiding the smile in the crook of his arm.

Ahh tama, she likes us eh. She wants to be where we are, after all. It'll all work out fine, Himi, all work fine,

and he gives up the struggle to keep listening to whatever Kerewin might say, and falls very peacefully asleep.

II. The Sea Round

4. A Place To Sleep By Day

"Tea time," says Kerewin, and turns the car off the main road.

"Bloody pines," snarling to herself.

"Huh?"

"Look at it."

Cutover bush going past in a blur. Where it isn't cutover, it's pines. They start a chain back from the verge and march on and on in gloomy parade.

"This place used to have one of the finest stands of kahikatea in the country."

"And they cut it down to make room for those?"

"They did," she says sourly. "Pines grow faster. When they grow. The poor old kahikatea takes two or three hundred years to get to its best, and that's not fast enough for the moneyminded."

She pulls up hard. "I hate pines," she says unnecessarily.

Joe grins. "I gathered. They've got their uses though."

"O there's room in the land for them, I grant you, but why do they have to cut down good bush just to plant sickening pinus? Look at that lot, dripping with needle blight dammit… this land isn't suitable for immigrants from Monterey or bloody wherever. Bring the kete, eh."

She slams the door when she's out.

He looks at his son.

"What's she in a bad mood over?"

Simon winces. Joe lowers his voice. "You hurting?"

The boy says No. He's spent the last three days in bed, all taken care of by his father who's suitably sympathetic to, and thankful for, flu, this time.

Might've been a lie when I said it, but thank you for making it come true. He strokes the child's hair. "Sure?" he whispers.

Sure, he nods.

"Well, it must be the pines that have upset her." He leans over the seat and picks up the kete, full of sandwiches and teamaking gear. "You feeling hungry, e tama?"

He winces again.

"Ah hah, that's the problem is it?" Joe grins cheerfully, "Don't worry. We'll eat your share, and you can have a double helping at tea or whenever we get to this place."

He picks his son up, and joins Kerewin.

It's a good place where she's standing, despite the alien trees.

There is a stone-bottomed creek twenty yards away, and the ground slopes towards it. The sun is high, and the air is warm and windless.

Kerewin has taken her jacket off, and is booting pinecones.

"Now that's a good way to show your opinion of them." He plonks the kete on the ground, and sets Simon beside it.

She lays her boot into another cone, and it cracks against a tree trunk fifty feet away.

Joe whistles. "Mighty! I'll bet you didn't intend to hit it though-"

For answer, she kicks again, and a second cone shatters on the same tree. She rubs her nails on her shirt collar, and breathes on them carefully.

"Right," says Joe, challenged, and zooms in on a grand-daddy cone, thick and hard and bristling with club-ended spines. It explodes on impact.

He shakes his head in mock surprise.

"Gee, poor tree…"

"Poor bloody cone, more like. Anyway that was a fluke," Kerewin dismisses it. "We'll try for best out of three. You've got to hit under that bole, and pinecones that break up before arrival don't count."

"Done. Haimona, be scorekeeper."

The boy, looking less unhappy now he's out of the car, kneels up to watch.

"Turn and turn about," says Kerewin, "And you can go first."

His cone gets there, off centre and under the bole. It skids off at an angle on impact, still intact.

Simon coughs, and hides his eyes.

"Any rude remarks from you Himi, and you can pick up all the pieces after."

"Fine performance," she says, and Joe smirks, "Yeah, it wasn't = too… "

"I meant the finger wagging," she says, and launches herself at a hapless cone.

It speeds in, dead on target, and splits neatly in two, halves lying defeated at the base of the tree.

"Haiieee," sighs Kerewin, "who is like me?"

The boy whistles, and holds up two fingers.

"An extra point for prowess? Accepted with thanks, but really unnecessary."

"Cheating. We didn't agree on that."

"So? He's the official scorer. You appointed him yourself."

Joe mutters to himself, sights, and sends the pinecone flying with a short vicious swipe.

"Equalled mine, shall we say?" she says thoughtfully.

The cone bursts right on the bole in a shower of chips.

She boots another one away. It doesn't break, but is accounted better than Joe's first effort by the official scorekeeper.

"Help yourself to the liquorice allsorts, fella me lad," she turns

to Joe, smiling smugly. "Loser stands me a drink, eh?"

"Bribery and corruption," he growls, and kicks hard.

It is spectacular, soaring away in a magnificent parabola and whistling down to hit directly under the bole. He rubs his hands, and smiles nastily. "A jug for me, nice and cold."

Kerewin frowns at a pinecone. It is a fat little brown one, its knobs still closed, not too heavy but weighty enough. She swings her leg and hits the cone with calculated force.

"Beuteefull, beuteefull," she intones solemnly, listening to pine chips raining down. Perfectly on target, and this spectacular disintegration at the end of it.

She turns to Joe, who has flung himself down on the ground.

"Two perfect and an excellent against two perfects and a fair, right Simon sunshine?"

Joe whimpers.

"You can't tell me he's an unbiased judge."

Facedown, he can't see the coldness that comes into Kerewin's eyes.

"O, he does all right. That's a glass of pure iced orange juice you owe me, and endeavour to see there's three shots of tequila in it."

He lifts his head and brushes some of the pineneedles out of his hair. "Done," he says in a normal voice, and then drops his head again and says sobbingly, "Beaten, beaten by a mere female. I can't stand it," pounding the ground with his fist.

"I think you better bring your da a drink of something quick. The sunshine's addled him. Or maybe it's the pinescent. It does peculiar things to people-"

The boy comes over, radiating concern, mouth full of liquorice, hand full of a cup of soft drink. He dribbles the drink carefully into his father's hair and the man shrieks in surprise.

"Oath tama!" scrambling to his feet and grabbing for his son.

She stiffens. You hit him and I'll drop you like a log.

But Joe is smiling, and Simon ducks behind Kerewin giggling wildly, and whichever way Joe swings to catch him, dives the other way.

"When you two jokers have finished using me as a maypole in your catch-as-can, we might get some tea and tucker," says Kerewin plaintively.

They went on into the McKenzie country.

"Over there, there's Simon's Pass," says Kerewin.

"O? Simon's Pass?"

Joe looks at Simon. Simon says nothing.

"Who was this Simon anyway?"

"I don't know. All I've ever found out was, he was a Maori boy whistling down to

who rode a white horse called Dover."

"Evocative."

"Yeah… whenever we came this way as kids, my mother would say, There's Simon's Pass, we're nearly there, and when we asked who Simon was, that's what she'd say."

"Are we nearly there, then?"

"Not berloody likely. That was just to shut us up."

The sun's come out again.

When they came out of the high country, they'd been enclosed in mist and greyness.

The cold seeped into the car, the dampness into their spirits, and they'd driven in silence.

But here, back by the sea again, it's light and warm.

"Let's stop," suggests Joe. "Boil a tea, maybe look around a few minutes?"

Kerewin glances at him.

"You're not in any hurry to get there?"

"You are?" he counters. "I mean, we got three weeks."

She grins.

"Okay…" the car is already slowing, ". . what's the matter with Sim? Flu still getting at him?"

I think I know, but we say nothing. Yet.

"Carsick," says Joe, and the boy stirs. He is white and quiet. He looks at her and nods.

"Hell's bells, why didn't you say so before?"

"O, he'll be all right. He's always like it. Some fresh air and some fresh tea'll put life back into him. That's why I suggested the stop."

She shakes her head wonderingly. "I must say I like the lack of fuss. Every other kid I've known, and that includes self, is yelping I-wanna-cat as soon as they feel remotely queasy. It's the fun of having the car stop, or seeing your parents turn green. Very civilised, boy, very stoical, but if you had yelled we could have fixed the queasiness hours ago."

She pulls off the road near a solitary pine. "More blight," morosely, but brightens, "We can use the bugger for firing, though."

She has set up a waterheater and loaded it with pineneedles and bark by the time the man and his child are out of the car.

"Only thing wrong with yer average pine… soot. It fouls up the smokestack of this thing remarkably," popping a small twig down with great cheerfulness.

Her waterheater is shaped into two parts, cylinder on top of cone. Fill the cylinder with water, feed anything flammable down the narrow top of the cone and away she goes. The fire is protected: the water heats fast.

The black smoke disappears: pale flames dance at the mouth of the firehole.

"Ready in a minute… e boy, go look in that blue canvas satchel on the back seat, and you'll find a small bottle… wait a moment, you'll find a lot of small bottles. Better bring the whole bag to me." In an aside to Joe, "I been waiting to try this goop out for years," leering fiendishly as she says it.

He smiles. "Sometimes you're very nice," he says enigmatically, and she has time to think about that before the child comes back with her bag.

The bottles are all gillsized or smaller, and contain oils or powders or pale liquids.

She pours a spoonful of liquid from one into a cup of cold water.

"Drink it slowly," and the child swallows it, obediently slow.

Sometimes Sim, you're too damn trusting.

"What is it?" Joe has knelt down, with his arms round the boy.

"Aha." She's watching Simon closely. "It's a patented Holmes mixture. Herb extracts and things. Incidentally, I have tried it on myself, and it doesn't taste too bad."

"I'd say it even works," he says a minute later. The colour is coming back into the boy's face. "What herbs? We could make a million, eh."

"Distillations of mint, koromiko tips, manuka inner bark, and a little of the wicked weed… I don't think so. It takes too much time to gather and brew if you were doing it commercially. OK just for yourself, though. It's effective for period pains and flu-type nausea, so I figured it might work on carsickness too."

He uses one hand to sort through the little bottles, still holding onto the boy with the other.

"Bit mysterious, your labels… what's Morph, and Wit Haz? Or Unhappy Sun Bum's Oil for goodness' sake?"

"Aw come on, they're all obvious. Work 'em out."

But she hustles the bottle back into the satchel quickly.

"You okay now?" and Simon gives her a thumbs up sign. "Right. We'll have some tea, and then get on the road again. You want to drive this last stretch, Joe?"

"Not unless you're tired. I'll hold him, and we'll contemplate the scenery. He's less likely to feel sick again that way."

"I'll believe you. I've never been travel sick, car, ship, train or plane. Though I haven't tried elephants or camels yet. Or flying saucers or carpets, come to that."

"There's always a first time, scoffer. I thought I was immune until I took a canoe trip one Waitangi Day regatta. O sweet Lord was I glad when the canoe tipped, and I could decently and secretly puke in the water."

"Urk for the other swimmers… or did they all drown?"

"Waikato's a fast river… besides there were quite a few of us feeling off colour. I think it was the mussels beforehand, they might've been bad… could've been the couple of half g's I had though, or that hunk of pork. Or the kinas, or the-"

"You hungry, man? Well, endure. It's only another forty miles to home sweet home and tea."

There was a wide bay, so wide that the hills to the north were purple and hazy in the late afternoon sun. There was a small town, a straggle of houses and cribs, with a fishing fleet and store as reasons to unite them.

They passed it by.

There were rounded greenish hills that grew flax and scrawny windbeaten bushes in their gullies. There were beaches covered in grey sand and beaches clothed in ochre golden gravel.

And there was the sea.

She let the car drift round the corner, revving so it corrected the slide into a turn after a judicious wheel twist.

"Sheeit! They've made a road out of it."

Joe bit his lip.

It doesn't look much like a road. A double rut of loose shingle, and thistles growing up the middle hump. Ramshackle wire fences drooped on either side, almost overpowered by weeds.

"Kerewin says we're nearly there, sleepyhead," and the child yawns, and sits up in his lap.

There is a clump of macrocarpa shadowing the next bend in the ruts. A small neat house stands to the left, and two old dog kennels under the shade of the trees, with a cattlebeast skull between them.

"Ned Pita's place," says Kerewin. "Now, there always used to be," and she brakes hard. Two steers loom in front of them, out from the shadow of the trees. "Bloody normal, nothing's changed," and to Joe, she sounds relieved, as though she expects everything to be different.

One beast breaks into a sharp trot, heading down the hill, and the other turns and baws mournfully, head up. She edges the car at the steer, and it backs off, swinging its head side to side, favouring first one foreleg then the other in an uneasy retreat. There's a lot of cattle around. They stand in blank-eyed clusters, except for the beast trotting away in front. She accelerates, and the animal speeds to a rocking gallop, flinging its tail high.

"Stuhupid beast," snarling at it as though it caused her personal offence. It finally swerves to the side, its barrel heaving after the effort.

"Fences down, I take it?"

"Fences mainly non-existent. It's poor hard land to farm."

They're cruising down the last stretch of track. It winds to the beach. A cluster of baches in the hill-hollow to the left, and three against the right. In front, there is another line of cribs right on the beach, and beyond them, the grey Pacific.

"This is it. This is home."

She stops the car by an ochre-coloured bach at the end of the beachline, by the shelter of a massive thicket of African thorn. She gets out, and stretches her arms high about her head, weaving her body back and forth under her stiff shoulders. She drops her arms suddenly, throws back her head and screams,

"YAAAHEEEAAAA!" and runs on to the beach.

Joe looks at Simon.

"Sea air," he says mildly to the child, who is staring at the running woman in disbelief.

She's standing on the orangegold shingle, arms akimbo, drinking the beach in, absorbing sea and spindrift, breathing it into her dusty memory. It's all here, alive and salt and roaring and real. The vast cold ocean and the surf breaking five yards away and the warm knowledge of home just up the shore.

"Ahh," she sings wordlessly, hugging herself, oblivious of the two behind her. She stamps her feet in the shingle, bends down and throws off her boots, and stamps again, bare feet tensing against the damp cold stones.

"I am back!" she calls in a high wild voice, "I am here!"

The wind blows more strongly it seems, and a larger breaker than the ones before comes crashing down in front of the woman and sends long white fingers speeding towards her. The foam curls round her ankles and Kerewin cries aloud with joy.

"O Thou art beyond all good but truly this land and sea is your dwelling place-"

She spins round, dancing herself round, spreading her arms wide in a welcome, her eyes alight.

Tendrils of her joy and possession steal to them, and the man runs across the gap calling, "Tihe mauriora!" and Kerewin laughs and holds him and hongis. And the child runs into them both, literally, blind in his need to be with them.

She picks him up, and holds him one-handed on her hip.

"Tihe mauriora to you too, urchin."

One arm still round Joe's shoulders: they are knit together by her arms. She can feel their heart beats echo and shake through her.

She says softly, but clearly above the thunder and swash of the sea,

"Welcome to my real home. For now it is your home too."

Nobody says anything for minutes.

Aue, if only we could stay like this, thinks Joe, and at the other side Simon stares down at the nearby waves with no fear at all.

Then Kerewin shakes her head and says, "O berloody oath, can you see my boots round here anywhere?"

"That big sea," she adds thoughtfully, and puts Simon down on his feet, and unlinks her arm from Joe. She grins to the child, "Tuppence a sock boy, and a shilling a boot, shall I translate?"

He grins back, shaking his head. Nothing for nothing, his hands making noughts and circles in the air.

They find one sock, sodden and sandcovered.

"Well, the sea'll give the rest back," she says resignedly. "Or it won't, as the case may be. I prefer going barefooted anyway."

"May you what?" asks Joe, watching Simon. The boy crouches, and unbuckles a sandal, and looks at his father again.

"O sure, if you want to. It's your feet."

He-ell, watching the child take off his sandals and socks, now there is a thing about childhood I had forgot. Imagine having to ask whether you can go barefoot or not-

But she remembers similar requests and prohibitions now, from twenty years and more back. "The childhood years are the best years of your life-" Whoever coined that was an unmitigated fuckwit, a bullshit artist supreme. Life gets better the older you grow, until you grow too old of course.

Simon stands, walks round, grimaces.

Cold and hard, the gravel under your tender unaccustomed feet?

"Yeah," aloud, Kerewin the unsympathetic, grinning like a hyena, "bit hard on the soles until you're used to it eh… o, and a warning for you. See that thorn bush?"

The thicket rears behind them, a livid green impenetrable mass, studded with wicked-looking pale spikes.

"Walk wary of it. There's bits and pieces of it strewn all over the beach. You stand on a hunk, and you'll think the splinter you got a while back, nothing, nothing at all. Okay? Watch where you're going, especially near the bushes."

Joe says, "Somehow I find the idea of shoes extremely appealing. It's winter, remember you fellas? Kerewin, look at your feet. They're turning blue for goodness' sake." Her toes have gone a dull bruised-looking pink.

"It is a bit chill," admitting it with reluctance. "I suppose we better get a fire going… c'mon, I'll unlock a bach or two, and we can settle in."

She tells them, "We own five of these baches, all of us owning them, not anyone separately."

"What if some of your people turn up and want a bach?"

"Well, we'll only be using two. Besides," she shrugs, "I sent a telegram saying I would be here until the middle of June. That'll keep them away."

The two baches she opens squat next to one another, an iron boatshed between them. They are roughcast buildings, one supplied with electricity, the other heated by an old coal range. Small, neat as the inside of ships, with that compact air of a cabin, the baches contain a minimum of furniture.

"That one is known as the New Bach," she says, pointing to the ochre crib next to the thorn bush, "because we acquired it last of all. This one," over the small footbridge past the boatshed, "is called the Old Bach because we got it first. We're fairly pedestrian with names here."

The stream that flows onto the beach between the two baches is no good for drinking water, she says. "If you saw the cattle staling in the pond you'd know why, eh. So all the water we got is rainwater. The tanks are full, but it pays to go easy on it." Joe, walking behind her over the footbridge to the old bach, "These fences are pretty heavy… what comes lolloping up that you've got to keep it out?"

"The sea. See up there?" gesturing to the south end of the beach. "Those concrete foundations?"

"Yeah."

"There used to be baches on top of them. The sea ate 'em. Our black bach right at the end — we call it the Black Bach, incidentally," her grin flashes at him, "that one only survived because of the way it's dug into the cliff. The sea bashed into it but the pullback action never could get into effect… I think," her voice has grown suddenly dreamy, "I'll go along there and see how the old place is. The boat we'll be using is stored there. After I've said hello to that, I'll walk along the tideline for a way and a while. See you later."

Joe looks round the old crib.

The firelight from the range is flickering on the ceiling, but the kero lamps glow bright and steady.

The beds are made up on the bottom two bunks, and he's unrolled the sleeping bag for the child on the bunk above him. On the other top bunk, he's put their suitcases and the two guitars. He has arranged the food they brought in the cupboards. Bread and butter and bacon in the safe in the boatshed; milk in the fridge in the New bach; fruit and vegetables tucked away tidily in boxes and bowls; Marama's cake and biscuits in tins- "Watch out for the furry gentlemen," Kerewin had warned. "Meece love here."

There are traces of them in all the cupboards… or there were. He's been working on that with disinfectant and hot water. It looks like nobody has stayed in these baches for a while.

And to top it off, he's got a pot of soup near the boil on the range, and a kettle singing briskly beside it.

"Haimona?"

The boy looks down from his bunk.

"You busy?"

He smiles and shakes his head.

"Like to go and find Kerewin while I make the toast?"

He nods and kneels up, holding out his hands.

"Okay…" lifting him down. "Going to take you a while to get used to going to bed upstairs eh?

"Lazybones," he adds, shuffling the boy's hair out of his eyes. Simon peaks his brows… If you say so.

Joe laughs. It's funny how much he says, makes you think he says, with so little… how green your eyes are tonight, tama… I'm happy to see you happy. He leans over and kisses the boy.

"Put your shoes on before you go out. It's getting dark, and you won't be able to see where to put your feet."

The wind has dropped.

It is growing very dark.

The shag line has gone back to Maukiekie, bird after bird beating

forward in the wavering skein.

The waves suck at the rocks and leave them reluctantly. We

will come back ssssoooo… they hiss from the dark.

Maukiekie lies there in the evening,

that rock of an island,

not much more than an acre and bare

except for a mean scrub of bushes and brown guano-eaten grass,

where the shag colony spreads its wings in the sunlight

and haggles over footspace at night;

Maukiekie at nightfall,

all black rock crusted with salt and birdlime

and sleeping life, and

nearest to land

the stone hawk, blind sentinel

watching the cliffs.

Aiieeee, pain and longing and relief… too long I've been away from here. Too long that's been just a memory.

Tears come to my eyes whenever I hear a gull keen, or watch a shag pass on whistling wings.

O land, you're too deep in my heart and mind.

O sea, you're the blood of me.

The night darkens.

It is too easy, sitting here in the rock seat, to put words to the seasounds. Words round the waves breaking on shore, smacking the rocks. Especially now, when it's quiet, and there's only yourself listening in the dark.

(Well, there's them… and I think it was a mistake I brought them… but how can I send them away now?)

But my family is gone.

I am alone.

Why did I lose my temper that night and wound everybody with words and memories?

("It's the bloody horrible way you've remembered everything bad about everybody, and kept it and festered it all your life…")

They started it. I finished it.

They are gone beyond recalling. I am gone too. Nothing matters anymore.

She stares into the dark. Maukiekie is just a shadow on the sea, wound round with crying birds.

Twenty-five years. That's a long time. A quarter of a century.

A generation. They were the only people who knew me, knew

anything of me, and they kept on loving me until I broke it…

do they love me now?

Six years is a long time to be alone. To be unknown, uncared

for. Cut off from the roots, sick and adrift.

They must have wiped me out of their hearts and minds…

why can't I do that?

Why do I keep on… careful, you're wallowing, back in the

slough of selfpity and greasy despair… but why do I keep on

grieving? When all meaningful links are broken? Forever.

(Because hope remains. Get rid of your hope, Holmes me gangrenous soul. Do you really think you could apologise? Say you were wrong? Ask for forgiveness that might not be given? Never!)

She shudders.

Aie, quit it. Listen to the sea, not to words in your head-

There is an alien sound, a slight scrunching sound like someone… ahh, yes.

She watches him trudging past in the dark.

You really are a very stupid child. For all you know, there might be something terrible lurking in the shadowed cliff at your side, just waiting to sink its fangs in your flesh… (a mad sheep, woman? Don't be barmy!)

She sits up shivering.

"Anything wrong?"

Joe pads over, torch in one hand. She can just see the boy lying against him, cradled in his other arm.

"It's all right," he whispers. "Sim's been sick, that's all."

"O." She settles quickly back down under the eiderdowns. "Can I help?"

"No, I'm just cleaning up." There's amusement in his voice. "For a small boy, he can surely throw up plenty."

Yech.

"Yeah, I'll bet." She's glad to have never wiped up anyone's vomit.

"It was probably the car, the travelling. After-effects. You know."

"Yeah," says Kerewin. "Mmmm," sleepily. Joe grins to himself.

"You know what?" he asks Simon, very softly, his mouth close to the child's ear.

Simon taps his neck, No?

"I think she's glad I didn't ask for help… she's gone back to sleep a bit too quick, eh?"

The boy giggles.

"Hush up."

He kneels again, and mops up more of the mess on the floor.

"She sounded like she might have thrown up too, if I'd said Yes, I need help. That'd be a bit hard on me, eh."

Finger brushing his neck, light as a moth touch, No.

"Cheeky brat," Joe whispers.

She can hear the rustle of his voice, and the boy's quick hushed laughter, but the sea is loud, louder-

It's good lying against Joe like this, thinks Simon. All the muscles are soft, the strength in abeyance. He has let his own body go completely limp, relaxed into the curve of arm, the curve of his father's chest.

Joe finishes the floor, and shines the torch round to check — yep, sick over my bed too — he's only just made it over the side of his own bunk.

"Talk about making a thorough job of it, Himi… that must have accounted for everything in your gut from last week on."

After he's done rubbing and wiping, he creeps over and puts a pot on the still-hot range, and heats milk.

"Think you'll go to sleep all right, without any more dope?"

Simon nods, smiling at him in the firelight. He gestures to Joe.

"With me?" the man murmurs. "It's a bit cramped in those bunks, fella."

He pours the milk into two mugs.

"Might be an idea though… you really finished being sick?"

The child giggles softly again as he tells him No. He has found

the whole episode hilarious apparently.

Joe hefts him higher against his shoulder, and sits on the floor with the boy in his lap.

"You truly all right now?"

He nods, and then leans his head back to look up at Joe. One of his hands rests on the man's wrist, loose and quiet. With the other he touches his forehead, and then his scarred back, and gestures to the bunk where Kerewin sleeps.

He can feel his father's heart start to beat urgently hard. He stretches up and touches Joe's lips.

"She's keeping quiet? Or I'm to?"

The whisper is high and strained.

Both, say the upraised fingers. It's okay, he mouths, it's okay, and suddenly the word is turned into question and entreaty, Okay? Okay?

"Aue, aue… okay, tamaiti, okay…" he strokes Simon's hair away from his eyes, and kisses him. "Taku aroha ki a koe, e tama."

All still, all silent, except for the sea.

They can't even hear Kerewin's breathing.

Joe sighs.

"Eh, I don't know why I hit you," he says in a low voice, talking more to himself than his child. "I'm drunk or I'm angry, I'm not myself… even when it's necessary to beat you o I don't know, it's not like I'm hitting you, my son…" Simon moves, and Joe looks down to see what he's saying.

It feels like it is, says Simon wryly

He closes his hands over the child's small hands.

"Thank you for not holding grudges," his voice lower still, husky and shaking a little. "God knows I deserve your hate… but you don't hate," he says wonderingly, "you don't hate."

The boy looks at him, eyes glinting in the firelight, saying nothing. Then he smiles, and leans over, and bites Joe's hand, hard as he can.

"Shit!" the man gasps, hissing with pain, and pulls his hand to his mouth. "Bloody brat, what's that for?"

Aroha, mouths the child, grinning, aroha, and his smile is wickedly broad.

Joe sucks his hand until the ache dies, then holds it out in the firelight.

"Look at that, you…."

Neat set of teethmarks, halfmoon on one side, quarter circle on the other.

"Aroha my arse, utu more like," says Joe ruefully. "Drink up your milk, and we'll go to bed."

Lying awake in the night when no-one else is, warmed by the boy at his side. (Simon is asleep, face down on the man's arm. Kerewin hasn't stirred from her close inviolate solitude.)

My hand hoods, holds your head against my palm. Shifting his arm a little,

You are still too thin, but you've always been slight… and

it's been better since Kerewin arrived. Well, not so much arrived

as you discovered her… I wonder what she really thinks of

us?

Me?

She never shows anything much.

She's still wary of you. I can't imagine her cleaning up after

you… what'd she say if I mentioned you wet the bed every

so often. Probably be very cool and polite about it. "O really?

Well, lack of control over micturition in children Simon's age

isn't uncommon, particularly in moments of stress." Taha,

Ngakau, you're putting words into her mouth. You don't know

what she'd think.

He lets his hand fall, away from the child's head.

Himi, what are we going to do? It's all very well for you to tell me to hush up, but what am I going to say tomorrow? How am I going to look her in the eyes now? Same way you been doing it before, you great pretender.

He reminds himself, It's been okay today. Been all right this week… when did she find out? And how? He wouldn't tell, because of what he said, it makes him look as though he's been wicked.

He is, sometimes.

Flicking matches, and stealing.

And when he loses his temper, he can get vicious… what had

Piri's kid done to him? I was the one doing the teasing, and

who nearly got his brains bashed out? Timote, the bystander…

yeah, but who treats Himi viciously when they lose their

temper?

He shifts uneasily in the sea-hushed dark.

There's trouble at school… I don't know what it is, but there's trouble going on… Jesus, why does he have to go to school? He's smart enough to do without it. If Kerewin would only have him for a while… or I could stay home… it's too much of a struggle to get him along there every day, even though everyone seems sympathetic now. Even most of his classmates.

O but he learned early on that his handicap made him peculiar, and having only one parent wasn't normal, and not knowing his

original parentage or background or even his proper name, was downright wrong.

And how've I helped with all that? mourned Joe. Not going to school triggered off the first time of all.

The air is sweet, but his lungs hurt as he takes in great gulps of air. There is no other sound than the persistent ringing chorus of treefrogs. No lights. No questions. No more cries. O, what did you do that for?

You must be sick, man. He says it aloud, experimenting with a statement of guilty excuse. I must be sick, but who can I tell? And abruptly his noisy breathing changes to sobbing. A grown man down on his knees beneath the cool moon, crying out the pain in his heart and the guilt in his hands, with no-one to hear him anymore.

("Except me now," whispers Joe. "Neatly two years later, I can hear me cry-")

It left a gap. It made a wound, for all the child's reacceptance of him. He'd gone back inside and cared for the boy as best he could, all apologies and endearments and tender loving care… and curiously Simon hadn't reacted with his earlier extreme fear at being held or thwarted in anything. It was almost as though he had been expecting it for a long time, and was now dully relieved that the worst had happened. The odd marks, the man remembers, the marks which had puzzled the people at the hospital… maybe even before… but he looked at me without resentment or fear, just looking. Observed me without communicating, He seemed to understand that time, how close I was to breaking point… but now? He must think it's just me taking all my woes out on him. That's not what it is, but he gets punished so often he probably doesn't believe I'm belting him just for wrongdoing. Or does he think he's that wicked? Good for nothing else?

She'll know I'm bad.

And is he now waiting for Kerewin to assault him too?

Joe shudders.

At the moment he'd rather cut his throat than hurt his son, but he knows from broken past resolutions, that come the morning if the child is sulky or rude or baulks at doing what he's told, he'll welt him with a cold and righteous intent. You've been bad, tama, and you're sure as hell going to learn… do I hate him then? But how can you hate someone and not know it? I love him. I just get wild with him every so often. Like I told him, it doesn't even seem "he him I'm hitting. His disobedience or something, I don't know.

Ah, you're screwed up in the head, Ngakau… and elsewhere, but it all comes back to the head.

His penis is erect, proud under his hand. He begins to relieve himself, cautiously but mechanically. He can hear Kerewin's quiet breathing, a woman asleep a yard across the way. A mile away.

God, what makes her tick? She must feel like this sometimes… but she never shows it. She's as distant as a stone. I've never seen her excited by anything except odd colours and archaic words… and she hates touching. She even avoids Haimona's hugs and kisses, and as for mine… ha! Yet Hana was as ready as me, strong for love any time, right to the night they took her away from me… someone, sometime, must have hurt Kerewin. Like I've been hurt and putoff. But hassles with Himi aren't because of lack of sex. I was celibate for that year before I met Hana and anyway, I can get it now when I like… not that enjoyable, just bodymeeting, but it shouldn't make me cruel. I was never cruel to anyone then.

He shudders slightly and then relaxes, eased.

The child hasn't stirred. Still as if he's fainted. Still as if he's dead.

What happens if I damage him badly? Or kill him?

He clenches his teeth.

Like when I fought that shit Luce over his sneer that Himi would get to prefer the boys too, under my influence. "The look in your eyes, Hohepa, when you talk and kiss, my god, it's hot enough to turn me on at twenty paces distant, let alone the pretty child himself. There's something very appealing about the half wild and the half broken-in — and you know what I mean by that, sweetie. And the way he kisses back… did you teach him? From Taki? Not from Hana, I guarantee,

that puha mouth couldn't kiss-"

"Shut your mouth about Hana. And shut your mouth about Taki. That's dead past and not to be spoke-" "O, I told him, dear. And do you know? He giggled. Fondly. Dear old Daddy, he loved the idea. Positively deelighted in — "

Wham. Straight into Luce's fine high nose.

And afterwards, he had gone home and yelled Simon awake. He had begun by scolding the child, but angered by his sleepridden look of bewilderment — deliberate, he's hiding behind it, I know his slyness — had finished by belting him until he fainted. Staggering then into the kitchen, sick from the party, sick from the fight with Luce, sick with this. But the only way to be less sick is to drink more, so the best part of half a bottle of whisky, searing down his

throat. Muttering "Fallen boy, fallen boy," and remembering the sad sweet months with Taki. I knew it was wrong, I know it was unnatural, but he was gentle, he was kind, I loved him and it was good.

And why why why did he have to laugh at it?

His rage mounted. Laugh at me, will he? Laugh, eh?

(And remembers this with most shame next morning, because it was only Luce's words, and Luce was born to make trouble.)

The child had crawled part way back to his bedroom. The tired sick way he moves, the mess of him, his cringing, the highpitched panting he makes instead of any normal cry — e this thing is no child of mine, levering the boy to his feet and pinning him against the wall, and punching him in the face and body until he whitens horribly and faints a second time.

And he had picked up the unconscious child with no feeling except hate in his heart, and thrown him on the bed. He had fallen loose and broken, and lay unmoving, sprawled still as if dead for hours.

And while he was full of remorse for what he had done to Haimona in the daylight, he couldn't bring himself to seek help. Aiiiee, imagine what they'll say, they'll do… so it's lies in notes to school, Simon P has the flu, excuse, and lies to Marama, O Himi has a friend, neat eh, he likes going there, lies to all and sundry for two weeks. Then Piri finds out, and now they all think I am sick, am warped, am a monster of cruelty. No blame on him, he's a godgiven angel to them… and what does Kerewin think now? Aue, don't think about that.

The child heals, at least his body heals; but then, and each time after, he becomes both more diffident and more unruly… and the worst part is that he still loves me. And what else can I do but kiss him back, hold him tight, and hope that the bad times will finish soon.

I kiss him too much. I hold him too much. Don't think on it, play each day as it comes… don't drink so much, don't do such things again. Forget it.

He bites his hand hard, and screws his eyes shut against tears.

Aroha, the child said, while smiling that wicked challenging smile, aroha.

"Ka nui taku mate, ka nui taku mate," and stops his whispering in horror as Simon touches his face.

"Aie tama, it's just a nightmare…" he can feel the child's eyes on his face, "… just a bad dream."

it.. and Kerewin turns to him saying, "That's okay with you then sunchild?" from the top of the building where she's standing.

Joe is nodding, pleased and proud in the background, and he can feel the sun on his shoulderblades, and he can scarcely contain the bounding joy he feels. He throws off the chains from his head and his feet and he cries "I'm home!" and Kerewin yells, "Hey Clare says Homai!" and Joe says proudly, "I hear! What joy!"

He opens his eyes.

It's grey outside, he can see through the gap in the curtains. He can hear the rain beating down. Underneath that sound, the sea hushes up and down the beach.

He sighs.

It's the first day here, but already time is running out.

He leans over the bunkside.

Joe's head is practically buried under the blankets. All you can see are long strands of black hair… hey, wait a minute, didn't I go to sleep down there? His father's hand is curled tightly above his head.

Must have put me back here again-

He glances at Kerewin.

She is tucked up neatly, her head on her arm. She doesn't sleep with a pillow at all. She seems to do without a lot. She doesn't sleep with pyjamas on either. She'd gone out while he and Joe got ready for bed, and coming back, turned out the remaining lamp, and got undressed in the dark. There was enough light from the range to show him that she didn't bother getting dressed again for sleeping.

Now she lies curled and still, her hair thick and curling round her face.

He sighs again.

In that dream, she had cut her hair very short. He hopes she doesn't. He can't bear his own hair being cut.

I don't see why it needs cutting, he thinks resentfully.

But Joe says, When you're old enough to take care of your own hair, you can decide how to wear it. Till then, I decide. Right?

You didn't say No to that, not without a fight happening. From experience, you should learn not to say No-

He stretches, leaning an arm out to touch the green wall beside him, and the other to touch the yellow wall at the back of his head.

I wish somebody would wake up.

He turns carefully over onto his back, wincing. Still… he looks at the roof. There's the lamp hooks, and hundreds of spider webs… all Kere's people must be like her and grow spiders in their houses… he wonders if Kerewin knows about the little brown man with blue lines across his face who seems to sleep in the floor. Not on it, the floor looks like it's not hard for him, he just lay down, and went halfway through it. Then he became aware that Simon was staring at him, and grinned at him, and said something in a soft indistinct guttural voice.

It was Maori, like Joe when he's in a good mood at home, or in a bad mood and wants to yell me out with other people around. But, thinks Simon frowning, it wasn't quite the same. Some of the words sounded funny. Besides I can't remember what he said. It was just before I got sick.

Ho hum.

There's a lot of shelves here. Some over the bunk across the way, and at the end of the room near the range, and above the sink, all of them piled with books, and more books, and candles and lamps and boxes and tins of food. You could tell this was a home of Kerewin's family… books and lights and food, all the same.

The cloth Joe used for wiping up the sick has dried crinkly on the string above the range. Above it, on the mantelpiece he supposes, are more lamps and candles and boxes… anana! that's a mouse! A live mouse-

It sits on the mantelpiece, and apparently doesn't see him watching. It cleans its paws, and sits back on its haunches, nose twitching, ears alert, eyes bright and beady and ready for any movement.

But Simon doesn't move. The delight is back. Hey, a live mouse! I never saw one before-

He levers himself up with infinite care, slowly, slowly — but the mouse drops to all fours and flicks away out of sight behind a lamp.

Aue, he thinks, but not with much disappointment, It'll be living somewhere in the bach, and I'll see it again today maybe. Or tomorrow… I won't tell Kerewin or she'll set a trap.

She'd exclaimed with disappointment over the empty traps in the new bach.

He's sitting now, the over-blanket drawn up round his waist. Am, as he straightens. I wish for one day it didn't hurt. But it's not all that bad, shrugging tentatively, experimentally. You'll do Claro, you'll do.

He leans over the side again.

Still nobody's moved. They're breathing very quietly, no snores. If he listens intently he can hear Joe, but the gusting rain drowns Kerewin out.

I might as well get dressed.

He's shivering.

He burrows for his T-shirt, takes his pyjama top off, and pulls the shirt on. The bandages Kerewin had taped on are loose now. Sometime today, I'll tell her. Or maybe I do something else? He closes his eyes and waits for an idea, but it's too cold to concentrate for long.

Where the unprintable as Kere says did I put that berloody jersey? I remember, end of the bed. Crawls out of the warmth of sleepingbag for it, but it's not there. Looks over the edge. Yeah, I'd believe it. On ther berloody apricock floor.

So he creeps down the ladder, pulls on his jeans and his jersey,

and sits gingerly down to put on his socks.

Now what?

Will Kere get mad if I try lighting the fire? No, it'll make a noise.

I'm thirsty.

He sneaks over to the tap and draws himself a glass of water.

It is cold, cold, cold.

I'm hungry.

He stamps lightly on the floor. Harder, but no-one stirs even then.

O to hell with this lot. I better wake someone up.

He blows on his fingers. They're starting to freeze too.

He thinks grumpily, I could freeze to death for all they care.

Who'll I try?

Joe? No, he was dreaming bad, so he'll probably be in a shitty mood today.

Bad mood? Fight? Ahh maybe.

It feels right, he thinks, tiptoeing over to Kerewin, kneeling down by the bunkside.

I'll surprise her, grinning already at the way she always reacts to a kiss. Draws back and looks as though she's going to spit.

He leans in and kisses her on the mouth, but for a moment there's no reaction.

Then Kerewin frowns. She opens her eyes and stares at him.

E Kere, it's me, don't look as though I'm not here,

his mouth is open with distress, and she starts to smile.

"Hello you," she whispers. "Up and about already?"

She rubs her eyes, and yawns, turns away from him and stretches. "Ye Gods, child, it's cold… you dressed warmly?"

He presses himself close to her, and then sits across her legs.

"O thanks. How t'hell 'm I supposed to get up?" But she's still smiling, and still talking in whispers. He wriggles closer, and mouths, Coffee?

"You want one, or do I want one?"

He points, You and me.

"And guess who's supposed to get it?" She closes her eyes.

He snaps his fingers. Wake up, or I can't talk to you… he crawls up the bunk beside her and blows on her face and on her shut eyes and in her hair. Her arm snakes out and pinions him, and shifts him backwards. But she's gentle doing it, and Simon in gratitude kisses her arm.

"Ah hell," says Kerewin, mock groaning, "kid, you're impossible. Go have a mimi or something while I get dressed."

But he's comfortable where he is, thanks, getting warm again. He smiles at her, and steals more eiderdown. Sheesh, she says, and pushes him down into the covers, plonking all the rest of the bedding on top of him. She swings her legs over the side and pulls down her clothes from the top bunk.

He stares at her.

He's never seen Kerewin naked before. And she's pale, cream, except for her arms and feet, and face and neck. They're brown and freckled. She has no scars, not even the pale kind Joe has curving up his left side, no marks at all except for the strange ones across her throat, but hair grows thickly and oddly under her arms and at her crotch. Her breasts are small and pointed, and hang on her chest. He's seen breasts before — Piri's Lynn fed Timote for over a year, but hers were fat and brown. Kerewin's are that cream colour, different at the ends.

He suddenly realises, for the first time in his life, that his skin is the same pale shade, except for the scarred places.

"Berloody oath, another freezing day," she shivers, and the things round her neck, long piece of greenstone and small silver cross and the medal that is covered by a clear blueish stone, clink and jingle together.

She pulls on her silk shirt and jersey, stands up, drawing on her pants and jeans very quickly, slides back onto the bunk muttering, "Where the hell are my socks? Move over chief, I left them down the bottom there somewhere."

He waves a hand airily, I'll get them.

He shuffles up with them, moored by blankets, crawls onto Kerewin's lap and holds onto one wrist so that she can't easily chuck him off.

"Which is being awkward, you."

She slips on her socks onehanded, and looks at him. "You want a cuddle? Or you just being a pest?"

You got the idea, he smiles.

Why can't it always be like this, when they like me? Why can't it be good all mornings?

She cups her hands over the boy's shoulders.

"Better?" she asks in a whisper.

He raises his eyebrows and purses his lips.

"As read… I'll see if I can't think of something that works quickly. Get down, Sim."

She reaches up to the other bunk and gathers his sandals.

"Put 'em on," she's whispering still. "Or, as my Nana used to say, you'll get a cold in the kidneys."

She can clean out the grate, raking the live coals forward out of their dun coating of ash, and set a fire, very quickly, very quietly.

They're eating porridge twenty minutes later, and Joe still hasn't stirred.

He woke suddenly, when the boy dropped the plate he was drying, and he woke in a foul mood.

He sat up so quickly he banged his head against the bunk above, and that didn't improve his temper.

"What'd you do? Come here!"

"S'okay, Joe. He dropped a plate. Accidentally." You hear the last word?

Joe muttered something unintelligible, clasping his head in his hands.

"What's that?"

"I said, Jesus what a morning."

"Oh. In that case I won't ask you the traditional question always asked of newcomers to Moerangi."

"Unhh?"

"That's, Did you have a good sleep? The answer's invariably Yes."

"Unhh."

"You knock yourself hard then, Joe?"

"Yes," he says shortly.

Kerewin looks at Simon and rolls her eyes.

"Well, we're just going along to the other bach. Have a happy getting-up. That's if you're getting up… it's ten after ten now."

He grunts.

A place to sleep by day?

Ta hell.

Only because you couldn't get a decent sleep at night.

It's a sour day.

His mouth tastes sour.

His eyeballs feel gritty.

His joints ache, he's got cramp in one shoulder, and chilled kidneys it feels like.

Half the bedclothes are on the floor.

The air is bitterly cold, and it's blowing a gale outside.

"Inviting. Deelightful. Just the place for a holiday," he snarls to himself. "O this is gonna be a fun fun time."

He crawls awkwardly out of the bunk, bruising his thighs on the concealed board edges, and knocking his head again.

He puts on as many clothes as possible, jersey and cardigan and thick woollen shirt, his woollen jeans. Feet and hands are stiff with cold, and he squats in front of the range, trying to warm them up.

"Jesus, I need a pee."

He huddles under further layers of clothes, jacket and parka and socks and boots, and braves the wind. And rain, it turns out. The toilet's got a leak in it, situated right over the tin, which is okay for the toilet but inconvenient for anyone doing their business. Wind leaks through the door, round his ears, up the can, and by the time he's finished he knows he's never been this achingly cold in his life.

"Nah, three cards beats two pair, Sim."

Followed quickly by, "Why the hell didn't you say they were two pairs of eights? You barsstard."

Clinks as a pile of cents is trundled away, presumably to Simon's side.

"No."

"Okay, yes then."

"Ask yourself, I'm not."

"Uh uh, my fine feathered little friend, that will most emphatically take those."

Crickle crickle slip slip slip.

"Hell hell hell," followed by soft giggling from the boy.

"What're you laughing for?"

Silence.

"O, sheeit."

Then, among the card noises, four "No's" from Kerewin, each one more annoyed than the last.

This is going to be one hell of a holiday, he thinks. I've got a suspicion today is going to live up to its morning.

He avoids looking at either of them when he turns around and sits at the table engrossed in his selection. From the snatches of talk that filter to him he gathers that the poker finished early, that Simon doesn't want to do anything thank you, and that Kerewin'll be damned if she'll have him hanging round in her hair.

He grins to himself, I give this venture two days and then we'll go home, and sinks deeper into reading. He had no idea that the chambered nautilus was such a fascinating creature, or that a mind could be as gently and whimsically dirty as Leunig's.

If there was any kind of rift between the woman and the child, it hasn't lasted long. They sit on one side of the table, eating lunch and swapping small talk, leaving him stranded by himself on the other.

It isn't that they're excluding him deliberately from the conversation. He has cut himself off, and he isn't invited, by look or remark, to rejoin them.

He attempts to, once.

"My mouth tastes like it's full of sawdust."

"Meaning the food is yuk?"

"No, no," he says hastily. "I didn't take the time to wash properly this morning. The water was a bit cold eh, and I've still got this thin North Island blood."

"You could have put more coal on the range and heated the water. Which reminds me, boyo. Get the porridge pot when you've finished your dinner, and we'll do all the dishes at once."

So much for trying, he thinks, and goes back to his reading.

And when he's finished the heap he brought across, he stares out the window.

The tide is nearly full out. The wind still blows strongly. Waves sweep up the beach, rise and crest, and are flattened to seaward flying spray. But over by that island — what did she call it? Makihea of something — where the waves are sheltered from the offshore wind, they are breaking in great showers of white spume. Gulls are making light of the wind, sailing in beautiful easy spirals away to the south. Other birds are beating in an ungainly way against it, getting nowhere fast.

"Kawau pateketeke? Kawau paka? Kawau tuawhenua? Kawau

tui?"

"You're nearly right," Kerewin is back on the floor, playing poker again. "Stewart Island shags, and I don't know the Maori for that… kawau rakiura, perhaps? At least, it's most likely to be them. They live and nest on the island."

"Stewart Island? This far north?"

"O, I've seen them further north than this. Don't ask me how or why they came here though."

"Poor fellas probably got blown here by the wind." "Unusual wind. The prevailing bree-eze is a northerly of some variety or the other."

"Bree-eze being a Holmes-type understatement?"

"Well, the one flaw with this place, aside from the trippers, the Japanese fisheries offshore, and the general pollution, is the ahh, rather regular wind we get."

"O," says Joe, forlornly.

"But don't let it worry you, man" saying it more kindly than she's said anything today, "Why, I've stayed as little as a month here, and had two whole windless days."

An opening. An invitation.

And anyway, what the hell is dignity good for? Keeping your nose high and your backbone stiff?

"Well, that doesn't sound as bad as I thought… you got a nice little pile of calcium around somewhere?"

"I could get you some if you really want it." Kerewin, watching him get up, sounds cautious.

"I thought I'd grow a streamlined sort of shell, so I could bask in comfort on the sand."

"O splendid idea… though did you notice those things whirling past the window a moment ago?"

"Yeah, the leaves?"

"No, they were limpets…."

What's funny, asks Simon, what're you laughing for?

Joe squats beside him, and ruffles his fringe.

"The demise of gloom, fella, that's what."

In the late afternoon, the wind drops. One moment, the bach is being buffeted and the iron on the roof is singing, and the next, everything is quite still. The sea sounds very loud.

Kerewin stands. "Anyone coming for a walk? I'm clogged to here," waist level apparently, "with smoke, and the last molecule of oxygen escaped, screaming for all its dead siblings, two seconds ago." "Yeah, it is that bit stuffy… where we going?" "Where'd you like? We can go that way, and see the north reef. Or we can go that way, and see the south reef. Or of course we could go inland, and see a resentful steer or two."

"North, make it north… I figure every step I take south brings me that much closer to Antarctica."

"North it is then. That way I won't be able to show you where you were last night, me sleight-fingered knave, but then at the moment I don't want to either." The boy grimaces.

"Y'know," she puts on her windbreaker, "I thought I was doing your child a kindness. I gave him 20 cents in cent pieces, and more or less the rudiments of poker. So far, he's won nearly three dollars off me, and had the gall to repay the original loan. The luck of ould Ireland indeed." Simon isn't amused. He scowls.

Inside he shivers. Here we go-

Joe says, "Really?" but doesn't sound sympathetic. "What do you mean, you don't want to go?" he asks his son. "Go get your jacket on, and back here at the double." The boy goes stamping out, slamming the door behind him. "Uh ah," says Joe, moving towards the door. "Uh uh," she says, putting her hand against it. "Leave him be, eh." She removes her hand.

One more step man, and down you'll go.

"If he really doesn't want to go for a walk, why make him? A drag for you, not to mention me, and a drag for Simon P." "Fair enough," he says after a moment, "fair enough." They wait outside the bach for the boy. And they wait. "Ah to hell, he's probably holed up under the bunks or something." "Well, we'll leave him under them… does he really do that?" "On occasion," says the man sourly. "Goes to earth rather than does what he's told."

"Leave him a note saying where we've gone, eh," after another minute has passed. "That wind won't stand still for hours."

"The fifth commandment," Joe spaces his words to match time with his writing, "with Haimona," the note seems studded with exclamation marks, "is, Honour thyself and thyself, and don't give

a damn about longevity, the land, or the Lord. There, and much sweat may it give him."

"What's on it?"

He's folded it already, and slipped it into the doorcrack.

"No threats… e Himi! Haere mai!"

He sang it out again, as they were moving down the beach.

"Silence and nothing moved… let the little termite stay happy in his hole, Joe. Forget him for a while."

"Yeah." He shook his shoulders and breathed out hard. "I just worry, that's all."

"Too much," she says blithely, "and watch your footing here." She began to run nimbly over the rocks.

Watch my footing, thinks Joe in the night. Watch my footing. He murmurs it aloud, into his sleeping son's ear.

Aue, what a day.

But it's over now.

And with luck and no more troubles, we're out of the woods, sighing.

He whispers Ouch, for himself.

Kerewin the quick, she of the very fast very hard foot, sleeps soundlessly as always.

"Christ alive," he says in soft wonder, "Christ alive, she's a strange lady. What did she say? The world's a fiery wayward place, why has it eaten me?" I

Crippled with bellyache, her knees dug deep in the sand, Kerewin had gone whiter than anyone he had ever seen.

"I burn to be out of it, and'll burn out of it," she'd groaned in a kind of snarl, and had refused their hands.

He stretches gingerly, easing his bruised body to a new angle without waking the child at his side.

But she'll be okay, little peace-and-war maker, as you'll be okay now. As I will. As we all will be together.

Sweet dreams, he tells himself, and is still smiling when he sleeps.

Kerewin has dreams of teeth.

Beginning with a replay of the time, the last time she'd been at Moerangi, when after a week of agony, she'd looked at the inside of her mouth in the mirror.

Jaw abscess

Swollen gums, with pus-extended ridges.

Ah God, make it go away.

There was a matter outlet, not yet breached, a gumboil where some of the infection had gathered.

It was the constancy of the ache that was unbearable.

The dream had dwelt on the moment when she had taken a razor-blade and attempted, using the mirror as a guide, to play surgeon and open the outlet the abscess had made for itself in her jaw.

She wasn't successful.

The next moment she was still looking in the mirror, and her two front teeth had changed to soft bloodstreaked stumps. The enamel all ground off, the spongy nerve and bone centre exposed… how to bite? She had only to touch them and she would dissolve in anguish. And then the teeth resolved themselves closer.

Her six front teeth loomed astonishingly white. But small yellowish holes of decay sat like ulcers near her gums, and there were brown stains from coffee and nicotine. In nearly every tooth, the enamel was marred by the black and silver inlay of fillings… except for those unexpectedly bright upper front teeth.

Dissolve.

There is a brilliant flare like a volcano erupting, shooting up through the after-image of the white teeth.

Draw back through a darkened window.

"Hell, what was that?"

"Fire," said Number Two laconically.

"Spot welding," someone else suggested.

Sitting up, struggling against the weight of clothes and was it bodies? "What? What?"

There is a sharp drawnout pain against her throat as though someone has fastened their lips against it, suctioning.

Still struggling. Arms come out, and they're too warm. They surround.

It is fire out there in the landscape of dark lunar shadows.

Again the sharp smart at her throat.

She says to the man with the sallow face and shadowy trace of moustache on his upper lip, "Are you kissing me?"

He replies lazily, wearily, and with a shade of alarm in his dry voice,

"I wouldn't exactly call it kissing."

The pain increases.

At the top of her voice, in terror, "He isn't kissing me?"

The shadow people rush in, tearing. Warm gush down her throat.

Weakening into black horror.

She wakes, shaking.

God, did I yell?

She listens hard. The child is breathing through his mouth. Usual. Behind the even, noisy breaths, she can hear the soft, regular snoring of the man. Still asleep. Mother of us all, thanks. For that small mercy anyway. She is still shaking.

Dream vampires… what in the name of all holiness did I do to deserve them?

She edges out of the eiderdowns, shivering, and slips on her jeans and jersey.

Sneaks out of the room, opening and closing the door with stealth. She collects a thick canvas-backed blanket from the sideroom, and goes out into the night.

It is quiet and dark, and it's drizzling. Although she can't see much, she can feel that dawn isn't far away. The ghost hour.

"Aue," sighing. She makes the blanket into a tent, and shelters in it. She lights a cigarillo, and smokes it, calming her breathing, listening to the sea.

The horror of the nightmare fades.

After a while — the drizzle gets heavier, it's nearly day, the sand gets hard under her behind, the smoke is finished, and her head is clear — she goes back to bed. There is an insistent but minor ache in her gut. It's like a period cramp, or the aftermath to a blow in the stomach.

But she hadn't been hit there.

She hadn't got hurt at all.

The air is full of spray. The rocks are black and jagged and wet. Not bare rocks: covered with life of all kinds, grapeweed and kelp, coralline paint and slow green snails. But the impression they give is desolation: black broken rocks, streaming seawater.

I feel an intruder, he thinks. Unwelcome. As though this is ages past and people haven't lived yet.

She apparently finds it homely enough. She smiled as she started walking away.

The further she went from me, the more alien she became.

She is standing now at the far seaward end of the reef, on a black tongue of rock. A strange person in blue denims, sometimes obscured by mist from the waves that explode like geysers in the blowhole. She looks tense and desperately unhappy. Like she's at war with herself. Like a sword wearing itself out on its sheath. She doesn't look like a woman at all. Hard and taut, someone of the past or future, an androgyne. She hasn't moved from the rocks there for ten minutes. Still as a rock herself.

The whoomph! and hiss of the blowhole sounds again; the spray drifts behind her, hiding her again.

She hadn't said much, walking with him to the reef.

She hadn't said anything at all when he said, "I'll sit here and have a smoke eh. I don't think my shoes'll go too well on those rocks."

She just looked, then walked away.

He sighs and shivers. The very air is wet. And cold. He bends down to stub out his cigarette, and when he looks up, Kerewin is running back over the rocks towards him. She moves fast over the seaweed and studs of snailshells and limpets, never skidding or stumbling.

Eyes in her feet, he thinks, wondering what has made her run. Something in the water?

The tide is coming in?

"And you saw the sea," he says to her, his eyebrows lifting.

"Yeah." Nothing else. She isn't even breathing hard.

"I saw something," waving a hand at the beach. "Look what's crawled out of the woodwork." The small figure trudging along the beach doesn't wave back.

Simon sidles up, glares at them both, and declares war.

That was by holding up Joe's note, and tearing it carefully into bits.

Joe shakes his head and draws in his breath, saying, "E tama, tama-"

Kerewin stares. "So what was in it? An invitation to commit seppuku?"

The boy sneers.

Joe stands. "Nope. It went, word perfect as far as I can remember it, 'We're going now. We can't wait all day. Kere is surprised at you. No wonder! You're being very stupid! Don't worry, I'm not mad. If you want to hide, instead of having a good walk, okay. And when you're finished, come out and make us a drink. It's cold out here, and it must be cold under there!' That's all."

"Innocuous, kind even… so why're you uptight?"

The boy scowls.

"You don't have to come with us you know. You can head straight back for the baches if you're in a bad mood. Speaking for myself, I've seen enough to sour today without having obstreperous brats around."

He goes on scowling at her.

"Whee! Shitty liver!" Kerewin laughs. "Or does ould Ireland fear retribution at the poker table?" and the child suddenly bends and picks up the nearest thing to hand and hurls it at her.

It's a green snail, a pupu, and it just misses Kerewin's eye.

Her hand flicks to one side in a blur of movement.

"Careful," she says, and all the laughter is gone. "Don't do that again, urchin. I'm just bad-mannered enough to throw something heavier back."

Joe hasn't moved but his fingers are twitching.

"I dunno, there must be something in the air that's getting to you fellas. Come on, let's all go back. The tide's on the turn, and

"To hell. It's miserable. I've been cold and miserable ever since I arrived."

"Well go away then," Kerewin's voice is dangerously low.

They're glaring at each other now, Kerewin listening to herself saying, Stupid! Stupid! Break it up! in her head, and watching Joe's lips quivering uncontrollably with incredulity.

Hell, he is near breaking point,

and Simon comes off the rocks on to the ochre sand.

"Come here you!" Joe calls, and every word shakes. The scar up his ribs is blazing and Piri's retorts still shriek in his head.

The boy stops, and looks, and spits at him. His eyes flicker to Kerewin, and away, and he walks on again.

Incredible, Kerewin shaking her head in awe, fantastic… look at it, will you? Battered matchstick person flirting with death. You'd think he'd never been hurt at all, didn't give a damn about the consequences. Strolling away casual and apparently carefree… picking a fight? O you're right, man… but I wonder why?

The spit didn't hit — Simon's ten feet away — but Joe flinched as though it did. He shouted inarticulately, and lunged for the child.

Blown his top! Blown his cool! Berloody fool!

She is screaming with delight inside herself, trembling with dark joy. Fight. Fight. Fight.

O me killer instinct, riding high on my shoulders, wide with teeth and smiling!

And more or less under control, a pity.

"HAI," and the man stops involuntarily for half a second.

Plenty of time, plenty of time, sings Kerewin to self, floating over the barrier of space between her and the child, who has also been halted, midway through a cringe.

Ninny, she thinks fondly to herself, as she drifts to a stop beside him, trying to solve it all yourself, were you? And with violence yet, tchh, tchh. She notices, seeing every hair on the child's head distinctly, that there is a hole in his left ear. Like a small circle of flesh has been punched from the lobe. An earring? A brand? The awl mark of a slave?

The sand sprays outward, and Joe keeps coming, hands clawing for the boy. The man's eyes are blank.

I've driven him over the edge? her body smoothly assuming a stance of defence.

How did she move so fast? It feels like I'm swimming in glue.

Nope, he's okay. If that clout had connected with your shell-like ear me sweet chy-ild though, it woulda broken de temporal bone

and de mastoid process and de styloid process, ho hum,

as her hand caught the edge of Joe's fist and sent it flying harmlessly downwards. Her right foot arced into his kneecap a split part of a second later.

He sees the blows coming as blurs and can't avoid them. He goes down hard on the sand, but shoves himself back to his feet with extraordinary strength and quickness.

All right, woman, you think you can fight a man?

and strikes for Kerewin's face.

She weaves, seemingly. Her hand flows in between his moving fist and her face somehow creating a vacuum that sucks his hand upwards, outward, over her shoulder. She twists away from his falling body.

As he goes, This is wrong that's not what she should have done, and again he lands bone shakingly hard on the sand. Kerewin kicks him in the side and dances round Simon, who is lying nearby, flat on his face. She calls out, "Easy meat! So easy!" She is grinning wildly, her teeth bared.

Even as he scrambles to his feet, awkward and gasping, he wonders why the taunt should make him so angry.

Careful, that's Kerewin, someone says in his head but he yells at them "Fuck her!" crouching as he yells and powering his fists in a flurry of blows into her. This, he thinks with satisfaction, bloody kick me would you?

But none of the blows connect. It's like beating on air. She slips past the flailing hands and hits him on the mouth with the side of her open hand. It feels like being hit with a board. He staggers, is spun round and kicked viciously in the back.

"Upsadaisy," calls Kerewin. She is high with amusement, wavering and bobbing on her feet and grinning like a gargoyle.

He gets up raging. Stop her mocking, get her, stop her, but he whimpers as she whacks his face again and then steps sideways and drives her knuckles across his midriff. His breath fails him. He feels his hands drop, clench over his belly, thinks No what did I did she? feels his knees buckle, and the hard knock of a fist beating the small of his back, his kidneys, his bare spine. As he falls, Kerewin boots him in the ribs again. "Huh…" gasping continually, halfconscious and groaning for air. It aches when he tries to draw breath, chest and stomach, and his back is still curling away from

the pain at its centre. He can feel blood trickling from his welted mouth. And somewhere, in the background, Simon is crying.

But I didn't hit you… o sweet God it would be so easy to die-

His breath is coming more easily. He keeps his eyes shut. But I better get up or Haimona'll be scared.

Haimona is.

All morning the feeling had grown, start a fight and stop the ill will between his father and Kerewin. Get rid of the anger round the woman, stop the rift with blows, with pain, then pity, then repair, then good humour again. It works that way… it always did. There isn't much time left for anything to grow anymore. It must be in this place, or the break will come, and nothing will grow anymore.

So start a fight.

Easy.

It had been.

But he didn't know what would happen after Kerewin winning. He thought, They'll kiss and make up, or I'll get a hiding, or maybe both, but he had shied away from thinking much about it. He hadn't reckoned on this, Joe bloody and moaning and breathless, and Kerewin gone white and screaming to her knees beside him, and neither of them capable of anything else.

Everything's gone wrong. The world's turned on its head. Simon weeps.

She had stood gloating a minute after Joe went down for the final time, Ahh little eater of people-hearts, relish this… aren't you glad you never let me loose in a more warring time? Or maybe you howl and gnash your pointy teeth for the mistiming? Speaking of howling, trust old heart-and-flowers to be crying his eyes out… where do your sympathies lie, child? Entirely away from yourself? Survival ain't that way, Sim… though I do feel vaguely sorry for the fella myself now… she is starting to feel queasy at Joe's hard hurt breathing, so she goes to help him. Press the two points: one either side of the nose, pinch the heel, and it'll all stop, man… kneeling down to do it, and then screaming convulsively. She falls the last few inches to the ground. She twists over to one side, hands pressed deep against her belly, a simulacrum of Joe's agony a minute back.

It isn't mockery. The only thing she can think about the searing pain in her gut is that someone has stuck a knife into her.

"It's not, it's not," moaning aloud, hands still kneading.

"What's matter?"

He has got himself to his hands and knees.

"Fire-er-er," word lengthened sobbingly by the stabbing anguish, "O no, it's not."

It is diminishing. She huddles over, keeping her hands tight, lest

her intestines fall out. Seppuku I kidded, it kids me not… what slipped or tangled or pierced? Joe presses her shoulder gently.

"Get your hand off me," she is panting hoarsely and sweat runs in steady drops down her face.

He takes his hand away. He sits wearily back on his heels, and reaches an arm out for his child. Whispering is all he can do, "Aue, tamaiti…" and Simon scrambles to him as though the arm were the only shelter left in the world.

She was still pallid and sick and ill-tempered when they got back to the old bach.

She'd refused help in walking, Joe's or Simon's.

"Okay, you lend me your shoulder, Himi, I can use it," the man said ruefully, and leant enough weight on the boy to kid him he was helping.

She'd refused food and drink and all care offered, and ignored Joe's tentative apology. She climbed into bed with her clothes on, burrowed under the eiderdowns and fell asleep, immediately, deeply, unnaturally.

She didn't wake until it was dark.

Joe says, unintentionally louder than anything he's said for the past two hours, "Well, maybe they only go when she whistles at them or something, honey, but I can't get them to light."

She whistles, a sharp three notes like anyone calling in their dogs.

"Nope?" she questions into the silence. "Hell, we'll just have to use matches after all"

They laugh. They laugh heartily and immoderately considering the feeble nature of the joke, but it is warm kindly laughter.

And with undertones of anxiety yet, thinks Kerewin, but she grins at them widely from round the side of her bunk, a supple grin, an easy grin, a white flag of a grin for their white flag of laughter.

It seems silly to keep a war going. She is so deep in peace her very bones feel soft with it. And they're waiting, their smiles still at the ready, Joe with his hands cupped over the child's shoulders, Simon hanging with both hands onto one of his father's.

Like he's trying to throw him, judo fashion, she thinks irreverently, but likes the forgiveness and acceptance implicit in their pose.

"All right, people," she says, and swings her legs over the bunkside. The movement doesn't bring even a twinge to her belly-muscles.

Weird, me soul… snatched out of thickets and thatches of furze and turned around taverns where thorns drank us… a rip from a burning bush or a ghost-dagger in the gut, but

not even a small bulge of hernia or tender swollen muscle to show where-

The boy has danced away from under the shelter of his father's hands, coming to her, by her before her feet hit the floor.

Eyes so wide and dark you can read the question like type coming up on a screen, Are you all right now?

"Right as rain, Sim," she says, still smiling, and he hugs her, blending his ready tears with his jackolantern grin. "E Joe, your disgusting child is kissing me knees," she lifts the boy quickly and stands with him. "I don't mean that nastily, sea imp, I truly don't. It's just an odd place to get salutations, that's all."

Joe says simply, "He was worried, now he's glad. I was worried as hell."

She walks to the range where Joe stands, arms folded against his chest now, his face so puffed with bruises his grin is crooked.

"Jesus," he says fervently, "I'm glad you're okay-"

"Urn yeah. What's for tea?"

Some of that is put on, mate. Nobody could sound that happy I'm all right after the smacking round you got.

"We haven't got any ready. We were too worried," he says again. "When you flaked, I didn't know whether to get a doctor or not. I didn't know where to get a doctor anyway. Your breathing sort of relaxed and sounded ordinary after a while, so we crossed our fingers and hoped. We didn't know whether you'd give us the umm boot, or whether you'd wake up wild again, or what. So we commiserated with one another on our various hurts, and kept a weather eye on your bunk. And then we woke you… wasn't it?" "Well, it was nice to hear your voice again, loud and all." The brown eyes level with her own are so open she feels she could slide in and poke round in the chambers of his soul.

He really does mean it, Holmes. No ill will at all.

"What was it? The uhh?" waving a hand round the region of his stomach.

"I haven't the faintest idea. It's never happened to me before, but it might be an ulcer. I drink enough to support one."

"I hope not."

"You and me both, man. How're you?" It's a clipped-on casual query.

Joe grins lopsidedly.

"Battered but not broken. I got aches and bruises but that's okay. In an odd way, it is penance you know?"

"I can believe it." She shrugs. "I been wild at you since last week. Since I found out how you've whacked him. Nobody should take the kind of hidings he's been getting, not for any reason at all. But

let's forget it. Drop the subject. If you can believe I'm both sorry and glad to beat you up, you can also believe the matter is closed as far as I'm concerned. Provided you don't beat him like that again."

"First things first," he says slowly, and Kerewin thinks, Yeah, here it comes, you were lucky and all that crap, but he goes on, "I'll tell you all the why of the past whenever you want to hear it. Meantime I swear, on his head," hand motioning to but not touching the child's bright hair, "not to hit him again. If he deserves it, I'll tell you and you can decide… I mean that, that if, uhh God-"

"Assuming I am willing to assume some responsibility for him," she interrupts coolly.

The man gazes into the fire.

"Yes."

"I sort of hoped," he adds, and falls silent again.

And I do believe he's going to cry.

She says quickly,

"Say a smidgin of responsibility, a scantling, a scruple of responsibility I accept. After all, you're not that big, boy."

The child grins.

Joe sniffs and rubs his hands across his eyes. "Ahh Kerewin, I don't know… I need a dictionary to talk to you." He thinks, You bugger, you cold lady you. "Anyway," breathing out heavily, "that'll be good. We'd love you to help… and the other thing is, I don't hold any grudge against you, but that's the first time any one person has dropped me in a fight without a weapon of some kind. How'd you do it?"

"Ah hah," says Kerewin, "geddown you," and slides Simon down to the floor. "Say you get that bottle of Tattinger I've been saving for emergency celebrations in the new bach. Then we can chat over it. I'll even cook tea while we do. But to be frank, you didn't have a snowball's chance in hell against me."

Joe doesn't answer, except to ask gently, before going out for the champagne.

"The ulcer?"

"Will be made comfortable and sedate by good wine… if it's an ulcer. It might have been because I was using muscles and techniques I haven't used for years… anyway, the champagne please, so we can celebrate."

As she stokes the fire she says to Simon, broodingly.

"Though I'm not sure what we're celebrating. Not what's happened certainly. The future, maybe…."

Simon leans against her, and stares into the flames. His face is composed and his eyes are unreadable.

By the time Joe returns, she has scrubbed potatoes and put them in the oven; made a tangy mayonnaise from yoghurt and honey and wheat germ oil; grated carrots and sliced an apple thinly. It's a large green grannysmith, and she only peeled it partly.

The boy plays teeth with the peel before eating it.

"Provide you with some you're missing eh?" and he grins a green ghastly grin. He turns it on Joe when he comes in.

"Yurk, and after the way you eat toothpaste, too." He gestures to the bottle, "I open it?"

"Yeah please." She goes on chopping up vegetables; cabbage into shreds; clove of garlic squashed; piece of green ginger skinned and sliced into fragments… "Quick stir of that lot, slather in the mayonnaise, and there's your salad, complete-"

Joe sniffs.

"Smells piny. Nice."

"Tastes piny too. Great, if you like turpentine… where'd I put the pork chops?"

"They're in the safe. I'll get them if you like, and you can continue the struggle with this cork?"

"S'okay, you're doing fine. I'll get "em."

The stars glitter and wink in the deep of night. The rain still falls soft on her skin.

It was just beginning when we came back up the beach… hell, I can't understand him. Either of them. It doesn't make sense to be without any reproach… or are they both masochists? They don't act like they are, but it's a bloody kind of love that has violence as a silent partner. And Sim hugs Joe as if he's never been thrashed, and Joe just grins at me amidst his bruises. Penance? Strangeness? Her, I don't know-

Joe asks when she comes back in,

"Any champagne glasses?"

"No. Recycled peanut butter jars that do double duty, beer and water. Even champagne at a pinch."

"Sacrilege," he says in a stagy whisper. "Two or three?" in normal tones.

"There's three of us."

"Ka pai."

The pinpoint bubbles tremble and sniz at the surface. The wine is pale as the light on straw.

"Ahhh… here's to peace and solace all round."

"So say we… and may the rest of this holiday be ah, as stimulating as this first day but a little more easy and quiet."

"Hear, hear," says Kerewin in a deep hollow voice. She asks a minute later, mouthfuls later, "Are you disliking this, fella, or is that face-twisting because of the fizz?" Joe squints at his child. "He

doesn't like it. And you don't want to say, eh."

"Right. Rescue what remains, and fill his glass with mead." She reaches down a bottle from the shelf behind her. "He does like this. At least, he drinks it."

The boy blushes.

"O?" asks Joe. "Words behind words?"

"If only you knew… that's what started this whole thing off, believe it or not, but Himi can tell you if he wants. Only if he wants."

He doesn't want. He most emphatically does not.

"Okay, past is past," says Kerewin, and refills their glasses.

The silence is profound. Joe eyes Simon, and the boy stares guardedly at the champagne bubbles in Kerewin's glass, and Kerewin looks from one to the other, shaking her head. "You ever notice," trying to change the subject, "how loud your swallow is when there's no other noise?"

"Mmmm. O well, to hell. How long's tea going to be?"

"About half an hour. You hungry?"

"Very, but I was wondering how you have a bath round here, and whether there was time for Himi to have one before tea."

"Well, he could go and have a shower — there's one rigged up at the back of the boatshed — but he'd probably freeze to death before he got clean. The alternative is, you heat water on the range, and fill the old tin bath. It's in the boatshed too, but can come in here. It'll take about ten minutes for the water to heat, so you could squeeze in a bath between now and tea."

"Right. We'll get that over with."

Joe removes the bandages Kerewin had put on without a word. For a minute, strangely like his son, he won't meet her eyes. When he does, his eyes are full of tears. It takes Simon's slow headshake, straight stare at his father, so full of disgust, so full of disbelief, so exaggerated Regrets now? Ah come on, to break the tension.

"Ah you," says Joe, half-laughing, half-crying.

"Yeah, ah you," Kerewin grins helplessly to the child's sly grin.

There is, after all, really nothing else to say.

That curious impersonal property sense parents display over their young children's bodies… check this, examine that, peer here, clean there, all as though it's an extension of their own body they're handling, not another person-

She's amused by that.

Ostensibly, she's revolving her ersatz champagne glass (very odd tit Madame de Poitier would have had to make this one, sausage-shaped and nippleless…) and watching the bubbles extinguish

themselves. But out of the corners of her eyes, she studies the man and his child.

Most of the time, Joe sits on his haunches and oversees. Simon is way old enough to bath himself, but he checks what the boy does, and when he needs help, helps gently, competently.

Hell, the brat is positively chewed looking. Thick with wales. He'll carry his scars for life. Yet he doesn't seem concerned. He flinches occasionally but not away from his father's ministrations, from the touch of water… and the weird thing is, it's Joe who sucks his breath in each time, as though it was him that was hurting.

Bloody mixed up pair, she thinks, fashed in the head and still making it in the heart.

And now I'm embroiled. She asks, covering her moroseness,

"That hole in his left earlobe… what from?"

"Huh?" and they both turn to look at her, startled.

"During the contretemps this afternoon, I noticed Sim has a small hole in his ear. Is it from an earring?"

"God help us," Joe sounds stunned, "you saw that while hitting me?"

"Yes, and I haven't forgotten I said I'd tell you where I learned to fight."

"I'm not sure I want to know now… probably a pact and personal teaching from some taipo," he says in a soft aside to the child that she is meant to overhear. "That hole, yeah, it's from an earring. He had a heavy gold thing in it, like a keeper, when he arrived. He wore it until early this year. He got teased too much about it at school, so I took it out for him. He still carts it round… in your dufflebag now, isn't it?" and Simon nods.

"O. No marks on it, I suppose?"

"No marks."

"Pity… and pity you had it taken out, ould Ireland, because gypsy or hippy, pirate or fisherman, it'd become you," and the child blinks. "I mean, it would look good, besides being ever-ready coin for Charon, which would have been handy before," she says drily. "You won't need it for that now we've come to an understanding, though… speaking of which, e hoa, here's why you got clobbered this afternoon," and she launches into the tale of her year in an aikido dojo in Japan.

She had been attracted to aikido because she had heard that it was some kind of super-karate, the ultimate kung fu. It wasn't anything of the kind, she said, but it took a while for her to learn that.

"To quote a master of it, 'Aikido walks the way of the universal, and has as its sole aim, the perfection of humankind.' The techniques are based on unifying mind and body and spirit, but they're

immensely practical in any kind of fight. But you're failing if your only aim is to beat up your opponent. I couldn't understand that… I was the ultimate warring barbarian. Slam crash along comes Holmes… chuck out yer morals and spiritualese, show me how to gut 'em in half a second flat. Stomp strangle and maim hooray! I didn't stay that long, not long enough to become really expert, but I can handle six ordinary attackers at once quite comfortably."

"No wonder you waded over me then-"

"Yeah, it wasn't that difficult… but I've seen an old woman in the Hombu dojo take on ten armed men, knives and sticks and bottles, or rather let them take her on, and she just massacred them. Or rather, let them massacre each other… quite a sight," she shakes her head slowly. "Massacre in the figurative sense," she adds, seriously.

"I hoped you meant it like that."

"Mmm, well… I left Japan after a year, screaming about getting up at five every day to practise, practise, practise. Screaming about spending two hours every day in misogi breathing. Screaming about the food, about not being able to test the techniques I'd learned in match situations, screaming about everything."

"No contests?"

"They're forbidden… look, I'll quote you some words, and the thing might become a bit clearer. Just a minute."

She lifts down her guitar case, and takes a small book out of it.

"When I came back to good old Aotearoa after the Japan fiasco — I didn't get kicked out, incidentally, I kicked myself out — I started thinking about all they tried to teach me, and ended up agreeing with them. I didn't do much about it, I had started building at Whangaroa for one thing, and I felt heartily ashamed, for another. But I wrote out a lot of sayings that had been given to me, and added a few bits of my own," waving the book in the air. "That's part of this."

She sits back by the range. "These potatoes smell about done… you nearly finished?"

"I'll just wash his hair."

"Okay. Here goes… Aiki is not a technique to fight with… it is the way to reconcile the world, and make human beings one family. Winning means winning over the mind of discord in yourself. It is to accomplish your bestowed mission. Holmes addendum: and to discover your bestowed mission. Love is the guardian deity of everything. Nothing can exist without it. Aikido is the realisation of love. The way," stopping reading, and explaining, "Do is Japanese for a way. Ai means love, harmony, and ki is the vital spirit. Aikido can mean, the way of martial spiritual harmony, okay?" "Okay," says Joe."… The way means to be one with the will of deity, and practise

it. How can you straighten your warped mind, purify your heart, and be at harmony with the activities of all things in the universe? You should first make God's heart yours. There is no discord in love. There is no enemy in love."

Joe is frowning. He doesn't say anything except, "Keep your eyes covered, tama" when he pours water over the child's soapy hair.

"Even standing with my back to the opponent is enough. When he attacks, hitting, he will injure himself with his own intention to hit. I am one with the love of the universe, and I am nothing else. There is no time or space before Uyeshiba of Aikido — only the universe as it is."

She stands, and puts the small book back inside the guitar case. The guitar strings hum faintly as the lid goes down.

"That writer was Morihei Uyeshiba, founder and master of Aikido."

The silence continues.

Coming back to the range, she opens the oven door and pokes the nearest spud.

"Done to a turn, e hoa ma-"

Simon stands in a flood and shower of drips. Joe wraps a towel round him, and bundles him out of the bath onto the stool.

Joe, towelling the child dry,

"So you picked up the techniques, but not the spirit of it?"

The question was unexpected. The silence had lasted so long that she thought she must have bored the man with the length of the quotations. She answers,

"Since the techniques really concern spiritual development, I didn't pick up anything except enough physical knowledge to make me extremely dangerous in any fight with anyone who isn't an aikido expert. I'm good enough to take the beginners… I started out with a cold temper, fast reactions, a killer instinct, as well as Maori ancestors… all of which makes me someone to avoid when I'm in a nasty mood. Don't worry," she says grinning, her teeth shining red in the light from the open firebox door, "the philosophy is over for the duration, and I promise never to fight you again. Not without serious provocation, that is. Like not eating this superbly cooked meal… oops, the chops seem a bit crisp-"

"I like burnt chops," says Joe. "Get some clothes on, honey, and we'll dry your hair after tea. Where do we put the bathwater, Kerewin?"

"Chuck it out the door."

After he has done so, he asks without preliminary, "Did you wonder whether that pain might be a consequence of sort of misusing knowledge?"

"I did, but I discarded the idea. Deity tends to exact revenge in more subtle ways than that."

"Yeah?" He doesn't sound convinced.

When she woke for the second time, it was nearly midday. She stretched cautiously, but all the pain had gone. "Downright peculiar," she said, and got dressed.

The Gillayleys were gone from the bach. The bunks were made, the breakfast dishes washed and neatly stacked to drain and dry.

"Kia ora!" read the note, and Simon had written it. "We are making lunch. See you. Arohanui, H H."

Joe's dictation, I'll bet… only he would end it, Hohepa and Haimona.

It was still drizzling outside. No fishing for a while yet, she thought, staring at the sea, and sighed. Another day inside… smoke, and card games, and guarded talk, and everyone looking sideways at each other-

Despite the overt friendliness and reconciliation of last night, she can't believe the former delight in each other's company will be there. Sooner we finish this stay, the better, she told herself, opening the door to the new bach.

Joe swings round and grins. Simon isn't here.

"Uh, good morning, where's…" and Joe grins more widely still. "Good afternoon to you!" he says cheerfully. "Right behind you, he's just been out for a piss."

And you passed me that close while I was doing it, Simon's mime is both graphic and funny. Like his father, he's full of smiles, and she finds herself answering them.

It might be okay yet,

her heart lightening, but even then she is unprepared for the flood of affection she feels for them both when Joe says,

"Now you're back, Himi, we can show her." To Kerewin, "It's because you said it would look good… first thing this morning, I had to put it back," sweeping Simon's hair away from the side of his face.

In the pierced lobe of the child's ear, the gold circle. Bright as the smiles, seemingly as unbroken as their friendship.

5. Spring Tide, Neap Tide, Ebb Tide, Flood

Tide In

The day is warm and the wind is light, but the sea is still rough and whitecapped.

"Tomorrow," says Kerewin, "better wait for tomorrow eh?"

Joe shrugs. He's easy, he says. The fish'll wait. "I'll try for some paua. Where's the best place?"

"Try the second arm of the reef, out where I was standing a couple of days ago. That's the only place I could see any sign of them."

So Joe heads north, the fork over his shoulder, while Kerewin goes to the other end of the beach.

"I'm going to do some sketching." She takes a pad and felt-tips and charcoals.

But she isn't drawing, thinks Simon. Sleeping yeah. It can't be sunbathing. She's lying wrapped in a rug under an umbrella.

He turns his attention back to the cliff above the black bach.

There is a hole there, two feet in diameter. He can see in for nearly a yard, then it tunnels away in a curve and the shadows become too dark to see anything. He'd like to wriggle partly in, stretch his arms out, explore, but there might be something quiet, with teeth, waiting further up.

"It's a rabbithole," Kerewin said. "There's still a few of them round here. The country holds a drive every few months with guns and dogs and a helluva hullabaloo, but there's always a couple missed it seems. Rabbits, I mean, not holes-"

They kill them then, he thinks. Maybe there's nothing down the hole now. Maybe they're all dead.

He finds a stick and inserts it cautiously. It goes into the shadowed part, but he can feel more space beyond its end, even with his arm stretched in up to the shoulder.

He goes along to Kerewin and takes her hand and shakes her awake, and begins explaining. How can I find out what's there? he asks with writing in the end. Kerewin says sleepily, "Dig it up.

you want to?"

He nods vigorously.

"Well don't expect to find anything marvellous," but tells him where to find a shovel in the boatshed. He digs for most of the afternoon before he gets to the end of the hole.

There's a round hollow, not large. It is lined with soft hair, and on that, huddled together, are two mummified baby rabbits.

He looks at them for a long time, not touching them. Sweat dribbles into his eyes, stinging them, but he stands quite still and looks.

The fur is dulled, the eyes shut and sunken. Their ears are stiff leather pieces, laid back on their dead bony shoulders.

He puts the dirt back on top of them.

I'm sorry, he thinks, shovelling faster. I didn't mean to worry you. I wouldn't have dug you up if I'd known you were there.

He fills back in all the dirt he dug up, and sits down on the pile for a rest. His hands are sore and his shoulders ache, and he's still sweating, even though the work is finished.

Joe comes along a little later, wet to the waist and whistling loudly.

"Hey, we got paua for tea, Himi!" he calls, and comes to the base of the cliff.

"What you been doing? Been busy?"

Digging, says Simon, showing how. On another piece of ground.

"Find anything in that hole?" asks Kerewin over tea.

Simon shakes his head, No, not a thing.

It's a groggy kind of dream. He knows it to be a dream even as it happens.

You're kneeling back by that hole. It's hot in the sunshine. You feel like crying, but you know something better, and you want them alive. So you start feeding them music, underbreath singing, and little by little the withered leathery ears fill out: flick flick, a tentative twitch and shake. The dead dried fur begins to lift and shift and shine. Those sunken holes of eyes and nostrils pinken slowly, like a blush stealing over, the eyes to moisten, darken, the nostrils to quiver, and then they open their eyes on you and they glow.

The music rings and swirls now, picks up like a lift of a wave, and the light has turned from ordinary sunlight to a deepening bluegreen, shot with gold… you're inside a moving wave of sound and light and quick joy, and it steadies, stays, before the motion of descent can begin, and sicken.

The rabbits shift and nudge one another, start to joust with soft brown forepaws in a glad scrabble to get free of the hole of darkness, and scatter away into the green watertight shine.

"I want to tell you," he sings fondly to Kerewin and Joe, who've holding his shoulders now, and they turn and stare at one another with delight. But-when they look back, their faces waver and change, and the wave begins to move, faster and faster, and the light is turning to night.

He can feel the wire round his wrists again. There isn't any room to move, and there isn't enough air to breathe, and the voice, rich warm powerful voice, is questioning, questions he can never answer,

and laughing when he struggles. The voice grows and echoes, and the pain intensifies, and he tries to cry out against it, but no sound comes. A bitter sting in his arm, and then the fingers bite him, pushing into the places where it hurts worst, and sending him down into the blackness where he cannot breathe. The lid closes over against his silent screaming, and the blackness floods everything.

And as he wakes, gasping and weeping and struggling futilely, he can still hear the voice in his head, singing his name in the deep of the receding dark.

They're sitting in companionable silence, sipping whisky.

Joe asks, "What was he playing at this afternoon with that shovel?"

"Digging up a rabbithole. He wanted to find out what was at the end of it."

He laughs softly. "Trust Himi… tired himself out nicely anyway. No dope needed, for a change."

More silence, filled with the slow breathing of the sea.

"You know something?" He shakes his head. "That's the first time I've seen him do anything like play."

"Yeah, well…" Staring into his glass. "He doesn't play much, I dunno why. We tried, Hana and I, gave Mm all kinds of toys at first. Blocks and dolls and trucks, but Timote knew more than he did when it came to playing with them. He didn't exactly ignore them, but it was like he didn't know why he should bother with them. We used to play with the darn things more than he did, showing him how and that, and he used to look at us rather kindly, but with distinct superiority… and then all the gear started getting lost. He gave some of it away quite openly to Piri's kids."

"Kids? I understood he only had one?"

"No, he's got four. Lynn, his wife, took three with her, and he looks after Timote. It's a bit daft," he says, swirling the whisky round in his glass. "Timote's the one who could have most used his mother's care, and the oldest, Liz, dotes on Piri and wanted to stay with him… but you can't order other people's lives, eh?"

"You can't… so Piri and Mrs Piri are separated?"

"In the process of getting as far separated as possible, but Piri doesn't want-it…

anyway, him and his toy phobia, well not a toy phobia, a disinterest. You know about the music things?"

"Yes."

"There's two music boxes. A little pile of junk, mainly clock innards, and I think they all get fed into his crazy constructions. He used to have that black case with his beads in it… he played with those for a while, when he thought no-one was around to grab them. And that's about it."

"What about the stuff he ah, borrows?"

He frowns.

"That's not so much to play with as gloat over, I think. A mad magpie instinct, you know?"

"I can imagine… does he keep all the gear at home? You fall across say, hordes of old chess queens and things from time to time?"

He grins despite himself.

"Nope. Some of the things he thieves stay in his pockets. I think he's got a hideaway round the house for other stuff though."

"I know this is a sore subject with you and all that, but um, since I'm going to be shouldering that soupcon of responsibility, does he shoplift? Or is all the loot whizzed away from friends and relations?"

"I wouldn't know, e hoa, I truly wouldn't know." He shifts uncomfortably, looking down at his whisky again. "He swipes gear from everyone, you included, at some stage or other, and he's been accused of thieving at school. But nobody proved that one," thinking momentarily of what Binny Daniels said. He shakes his head, trying to shake the old man's words away physically, He adds heavily, "No-one's caught him shoplifting. Yet." He swallows the whisky in a hurry. "Aie, I don't know, Kerewin… he's been told and hit a lot for stealing, but he still does it."

"That only shows that hitting him isn't a particularly good way to teach Sim."

She fills his glass, pours another dram for herself. She starts filling her pipe, her face thoughtful.

"What else can I do though?"

"Talk to him maybe. Try and find out why he does it."

"Last year," says Joe, cupping his chin in his hands, "I took him to a children's psychologist after a lot of hints from Bill Drew at school. The fella asked a lot of questions, but… he was a nice enough bloke, I suppose, but his voice never got raised above a confessional whisper and his breath smelt of, I think, garlic and peppermint, and he kept on saying, "Not to worry ah Mr ah Gillayley, we'll soon know a little more."

Kerewin chuckles. "Sounds a cretinous git."

He looks at her, and the lines on his face lighten a little. "Yeah… I'll guarantee he never got to know that little bit more anyway, because Himi sits there and stares the whole time. The bloke puts out all kinds of puzzles and asks questions every minute in this low tell-it-to-me voice, and Haimona doesn't make a move. Sits there with his mouth open, looking like an idiot. Not a twitch or a squeak out of him, nothing eh, nothing at all. The child psych says after about half an hour, 'Ah Mr ur Gillayley, is he always this um non-responsive?' And that bloody Sim sort of slides me a look sideways, and I can see he's nearly killing himself keeping a straight face. And I have to say in all seriousness, 'Ah no, Doctor, he's normally um very lively. I think it's just the strange surrounding eh.' And that was that. The fella made another appointment for us to come

back, but by mutual consent, we decided it wasn't worth the trip into Taiwhenuawera.

"I think your son's got a rather wicked sense of humour."

Joe sighs, back to being serious again. "He's got a different sense of humour. Different sense of everything."

"Mmmm." She lights her pipe, and watches the match twist and blacken and go out. "You ever go to anyone else in the psych field?"

"We'd have to go to Christchurch, eh."

"Mmmm." After a minute, "It doesn't make sense. Neglected and unhappy kids steal to get attention. Sim's not neglected, but he's probably been unhappy because of the way he's been treated, and,"

Joe winces,

"disregarding his background, his handicap, he's had reason to go round pinching stuff to show people, 'Hey, here I am, I want you to help me.' But that doesn't tie in with not playing, and not owning stuff. I don't think so, anyway."

She takes the pipe out of her mouth, and swallows the glassful of whisky. "Ahh… does he play with other kids at all?"

"No, not at school. Not according to the teachers. He generally stays on the fringes of anything going on, looking… and he's never brought anyone home to play or gone to play with anyone as far as I know. He sticks round adults most of the time, or goes away by himself. He did used to play with Whai and Liz and Maurie — that's Piri's lot, and they're all nice kids — but there was a hell of a lot of fights."

"What over?"

"O anything and nothing. One moment they're all happy hide and go seeking or whatever, and the next boomf! Sim's in, boots and all."

"But there must have been some kind of provocation or misunderstanding each time?"

"It's pretty hard to find out what started things when you've got a yard full of kids all yowling and hammering one another." He adds, "Liz always used to take Himi's side-"

"Good for her… you could have asked them after though, Joe."

He shrugs. "Well, what with one thing and another, we never did."

"O." She lights her pipe again, and puffs away in silence.

He doesn't seem to have thought about the boy in any deep fashion. Why Sim does strange or wild or bad things… he either kicks or kisses the brat, and hopes things'll work out. Like if he hits him enough, Sim'll stop stealing, without finding out what started him stealing in the first place. Or maybe the spiderchild has always been lightfingered?

and she's just about to ask him that, when the door opens, and the boy stumbles inside.

Joe takes one look, "Ah Jesus, nightmares," and kneels down, gathering his son into his arms. Another time, she thinks.

Tide Out

Very early morning, fine and mild.

("You reckon we ought to go? After last night?"

"Yeah, he's all right. Box of birds.")

The sea is mid-tide, on its way out, but flat and quiet. The water curls sleepily onto the beach, stays awhile in a flat silver sheet, and then seeps back into itself. There isn't a wave anywhere to speak of.

"Urn, has he been out in a boat since being shipwrecked?"

"No." He whispers it, reluctant to break the silence of the dawning.

"Ye gods and little fishes…."

What will we get? Pandemonium? Or he'll just be scared shitless?

She picks up a lifejacket.

"Give him that, it's smallest… this can be yours. O, and tell him he better go to the toilet now, because it's okay for pissing out there, but anything else is bloody awkward."

Joe glances at her and his eyes twinkle. He says in an ordinary voice, "Don't worry, he's already been. So've I."

"Okay…."

"Can I carry anything for you?"

"No. I'll take the rods and the bait, and you can bring him. Led, carried, or whatever."

He goes back to the bach, and Kerewin heads for the boat.

Her craft back at Whangaroa is a 36 foot converted fishing trawler, with a 100 h.p. inboard. It has a galley, bunks, and lockers, and is equipped with everything she thought useful or decorative. Radar, depth sounder, electronic compass, marine radio, chart library. She could live on board, for everything necessary is there, from the small fridge and cooker to the extraordinary shower and WE arrangement. To date, she's taken the vessel out on three fishing trips. The Aihe II is, as yet, a plaything among playthings in plenty.

The craft waiting for her at the water's edge is a 12 foot clinker-built dinghy, and it's powered by a temperamental 5 h.p. outboard. There is a splashboard at the bow, and three seats, and no gadgetry at all. As Kerewin's brothers were apt to say, there was precious little comfort either.

But the boat is as old as she is. She practically grew up in it, learned to swim from it, row in it, handle it in seas and weather of most kinds. She knows and loves every inch of the nameless little ship, from the screw gouges the motor has made on the sternboard,

to the set of grooves at the bow where she's hauled up the anchor times out of mind.

You've been taken care of, she thinks. Someone has repainted the boat during the past six years — the blue is darker than the last coat she'd given her — and one of the curved pieces of wood holding the port rowlock shaft has been neatly replaced. There's new canvas covering the lattice in her bottom, and the anchor rope is nylon now, not sisal.

But if only I could have taken you when I pinched the coffee-grinder-

She'd swap the Aihe for it, right now.

She stows the two rods under the seats, the thermos flasks in the bowlocker together with fruit and smokes and sandwiches and first aid kit. She can hear the crunch of footsteps on sand behind her, and Joe talking steadily, quietly.

"All well?" as she clambers out of the boat.

"More or less. Do you want a hand to shove off?"

"Help us get her right afloat, and then you and Sim get aboard. I'll do the rest."

The dinghy is heavy and hard to shift on land, but in the sea it's a different story. She stands, sea near the top of her boots, holding the boat steady as Joe wades to the stern carrying his son, lifts him aboard.

"Sit in the middle," says Kerewin to the child, who has squatted in the bottom as soon as he could.

"I'll sit with him." Joe climbs awkwardly over the side. The dinghy rocks and sidles, and the boy hunches his shoulders as though he's been struck.

Hell, we should leave him behind,

but she keeps her face impassive.

She pushes out hard, and in the same movement, swings herself nimbly up on the sternboard, kneeling by the motor a second before stepping onto the seat.

"You've done that a few times…" Joe has settled himself on the middle seat, holding Simon.

"Yeah, but you should have seen some of the other performances. Distinctly inelegant, to say the least… I've brought her in broadside, and nearly turned her over. Gone out on a wrong wave and ended up bum in the air, boots waving goodness knows where. Lost oars, dented her bow, bent the propeller blade on a rock I somehow didn't see. One of the neatest though," she's winding the starter cord round the motor-head, "was a time when I was half-drunk. I should never have gone out, but I wanted to check some pots," she pulls the cord and the motor sputters, but doesn't keep going, "damn." She squeezes the bulb on the petrol feedline again. "Anyway, I do this

act, get her launched, push her out — it's a sea like this, calm as a duck pond — and swing myself on board. I ended up under water. I remember thinking, 'Shoot, were'd the boat go?' as I sank." She pulls the cord again, and this time the motor spins into life. She keeps it in neutral a moment, the noise crackling round the bay as she revs it. Before she puts it in gear she adds, "They were killing themselves on shore. They could see it was all going to happen. I apparently hopped up on the stern all right, and then kind of forgot she was still moving. She cruised out from underneath me while I was still plotting where to put my feet next."

In gear, and the boat heads out past the reef for the open sea. Joe says something to Simon, and maybe to her, but she can't hear what it is above the outboard's racket, so she smiles and shrugs to him.

The dinghy is riding badly, and normally she handles well in any kind of sea. It's the weight of the Gillayleys, parked midcentre so the bow lifts high.

"Hey! Go forward!"

"What?"

Kerewin idles the motor. "The boat's out of trim. Too much weight this end. If you go forward, we'll ride that much easier eh?"

Joe glances down.

"Ah hell," she says, and switches off the motor.

She has been avoiding looking at Simon on the principle that if you ignore something unpleasant, it often goes away. If the brat's going to throw a wobbly, she doesn't want to know about it. It is awkward not to see someone a yard away, however, once your attention has been drawn to them.

The boy is huddled into himself, even though his father's arms surround him. His face is white, and his eyes are tightly closed. Presumably he thinks that if he stops looking at the sea, it might go away too.

Is he sick with the motion, with fear, or with memory? At least he's not making a fuss.

Then again, says the snark, he's inclined not to.

Afterwards, she doesn't know why she says it. She uses bits of languages a lot, but why this snippet at this time, except to preserve her hardboiled image, she really doesn't know.

"Sheeit," says Kerewin, "we'll have to go back. You can't have the bloody pauvre petit en souffrant like that," and the child's eyes snap open. They're black and blank and his face has twisted in terror. He jolts out of his father's arms as though he's been banged with a cattle prod and falls against the side of the boat. Next moment, he's spewing his heart out over the gunwales.

Joe moves almost as fast as his child. The dinghy rocks wildly as the weight shifts dangerously to one side.

She sits back hard into the opposite side of the stern, singing out oaths in a stream, for Joe to get back, for someone to tell her what on earth or heaven or hell is going on.

And all the time her busy mind, Pidgin French, M C de V, I'll bet it was Saint Clare beach, Citroen cars… I'll lay a thousand on it there's a French connection somewhere. Worldly peregrinations, was it? Why not France as well… Watching the boy hawk, then lay his head wearily against the wood, the vomiting spasm over, she thinks wryly, But I don't think I'll pursue that matter right now-

"Sweet God," Joe is saying in a shaky voice, "are you all right now? I thought you were going to jump overboard."

"Beach and bed in ten minutes flat," says Kerewin firmly, and reaches for the starter cord.

But incredibly the boy lifts his head and mouths No, shaking his head to emphasise it.

So she waits, swapping looks of bewilderment with Joe. A minute later, Simon spits a final time in the sea, and determinedly slides himself away from the side of the boat. He's still a sick bonewhite colour, and his teeth are clenched tightly, but he fingers OK to them, tapping his chest, OK.

"Himi, you deserve a medal," says Joe, his eyes shining.

"Or an anti-seasick tablet… they're in the bow, Joe, if he wants one. Mind you lad, that was a fine display of intestinal fortitude… ur, one way or the other," and she draws a muttered, "You bastard," from Joe, and a watery kind of grin from the boy.

"Speaking of bow lockers and that, would you pass me a cheroot Joe? And there's lime juice in one of the flasks — you want some, Sim? Nope? Hokay, if the smoke won't bother you, we'll have a quick one and then be on our way."

It's growing lighter all the time. She chatters, mainly to Simon, pointing out a circling mollymawk, a line of shags winging away from Maukiekie, a penguin that surfaces not far from the boat. The boy is relaxing, little by little. He kneels to watch the penguin, and doesn't appear to mind the gentle lift and sway of the dinghy under him. Joe broods in the bow, staring down into the clear green-blue water.

Like looking into his eyes… only nothing is moving down here at all….

"Right," she says, flicking the butt of her cheroot into the sea, "we all ready?"

"Ae." Joe leans forward. "You all right down there, Himi? You want me to hold you?"

The boy shakes his head, and Kerewin says,

"I'll take it very easy, just putter along. We've got as long as we like. Any wind won't be here till eleven."

She grins at the child, still crouched on the canvas, his back to the bow.

"And with any luck at all, fella, you'll shortly be catching your first fish here."

"First fish," Joe tells her, adding with a laugh that Simon has the luck of a proverbial dunny rat. "God knows what he'll catch."

She keeps the motor chugging along at half-throttle for minutes, covertly watching the boy. The colour is coming back into his face, and as the dinghy moves steadily on, he ventures to kneel up again, leaning his elbows on the seat behind him. Goodoh, she thinks, and discreetly winds the throttle to fullspeed.

It doesn't take long to reach her favourite patch. She lines the marks up, lighthouse centred on Puketapu, Rima lined with the distant pale dots that are the cribs on shore, and feels tears stinging her eyes as she does.

So long, o my heart, so very long-

She cuts the motor and the boat drifts a little way in a suddenly resounding silence.

"Theoretically, we are now over an enormous number of blue cod who never seem to have appreciated over the years that safety isn't in numbers."

"O?"

"This is the cod patch. Provided everyone else hasn't also discovered it, and fished it out, I guarantee you a blue cod within seconds of your line touching bottom."

She baits up the hooks on one rod.

"You want this, or I give it to Sim?"

"Well, he'll probably find it easier to haul things up with that than a line."

"Okay. Lines are made up ready in the basket there." She slings him a handful of chopped butterfish: she'd caught three off the reef yesterday evening. "Bait one for me too, eh."

She leans to Simon, "You going to do your fishing from there, or from the seat, o neopiscator?"

"Actually, he's been flyfishing with me before. He catches trees quite well."

"Make that neomarinepiscator then, oh" the boy's sat up on the seat and very swiftly flashed Up you at her. "Why you dear child," says Kerewin sweetly, passing him the rod wrong end on, "I hope you catch grand-daddy shark."

Joe blinks.

"Here," he says. "Hold it like this, that bit in that hand, and your right hand on the reel. Now push that knob down… you don't have to stick it up in the air like that, keep the tip down. Just let the sinker take the line down, you don't have to heave… hell's bloody bells, watch where you sling that lead!"

She is sitting well back, feet propped against the gunwales, humming to herself.

Her line is hitched round a rowlock, and the sinker of her rod is nearly on the bottom. The line twitches.

"What say I give you a race? My catch against both of yours?" She's grinning ear to ear as she tucks the butt of the rod under one thigh, and begins hauling up the handline.

"Ha bloody ha," growls Joe. "How did you manage to get this tangled round here?"

The boy says nothing.

"Two!"

Good-sized cod, glistening blue-green. They flop and struggle, but she unhooks them swiftly, stunning them with a small brass priest. She winds up the rod-line.

"Ahh, make that four… either of you down yet?"

"No," says Joe shortly, tugging at the snarl of nylon.

"Pity. They're biting well."

She stabs each fish through the backbone quickly, then slits the thin connecting flesh bellyside of the spine. The rose-coral gills spread one last time, convulsively. She puts all four, bloody and the bluegreen splendour dulling now, in the basket under a wetted sack.

"Ho hum," rebaiting her hooks, "How yer goin?"

Joe bares his teeth.

"Tell you what man, give us that mess over here, and you tend your line eh?"

"You asked for it."

"Oath, what a foul-up."

"Year-ess," much more cheerfully, as he drops his sinker over the bow.

Kerewin works on the snarl, muttering inaudibly. Simon stares at the sea, the sky, at the dead fish, everywhere but at her. And just as Joe yells "bite" she gets the hooks free of the filament.

"Carefully now," she says to the boy, and he swings it into the sea.

Joe is bringing up his handline, fist over fist, the cord sawing into the wood of the bow.

"Big one. Maybe a couple on each hook eh?"

The boy yelps, and hauls on the rod. It's a light fibreglass boat-rod, and the tip has bent nearly to the water.

"Hey, grand-daddy shark…" The reel of his rod has locked, and he isn't making any effort to wind in. It's taking all his strength just to hold on. "Just a minute, and I'll help you," says Kerewin. "It shouldn't catch you for a little while yet."

Joe looks over the side. His face twists.

"Haimona," he says in a strangled voice, "You've caught my fish."

She bends over for a look. "My goodness, and it's a big doggie too," and laughs all by herself for some time.

By the time Joe has chopped and carved and otherwise parted the ensnared dogfish and the two lines, Kerewin has caught a dozen more cod, three terakihi, and several sea perch. She throws most of the latter back.

"The way I figure it," leaning back comfortably against the motor, "anything that garish and spiny and above all, big mouthed, doesn't deserve hooking as well. I'm basically a charitable soul, y'see. Besides they're not very good eating."

Joe grunts.

Simon's skywatching again.

Five minutes later, the man rebaits his own hooks and sends his line down. With noticeable restraint, he checks the baits of the boy's line, takes the rod off him, watches the sinker slide through the green water, and waits till it touches bottom.

He gives the rod back.

"Just sit there and hold it," he says coolly. The boy looks sadly at him. With both hands full he can't say a thing properly, but he mouths to Joe.

"Fish? What do you mean fish? Kerewin's probably caught them all," smiling a bitter smile, "but if she hasn't, I intend catching at least one. If a fish gets on your line, get it up yourself. Without tangling up anything anywhere."

Kerewin sniggers.

"Sim, don't worry. With that proverbial luck of yours, you'll probably snag an octopus. It'll climb up your line and fall in love with your father, nestle tenderly up to him arm by arm by arm by yek," she spits violently. It's a fairly messy bit of bait the man chucked. "Joe," she says in a hurt voice, "me baiting you is one thing, but I'm supposed to get bites, not get fed," and cackles like a harpy. She stops immediately. "Waste of good butterfish," she says primly, and starts hauling up yet another cod.

Joe caught two sea perch. He didn't throw them back.

Simon got a bite. He sat holding the jerking rod tightly, hoping the fish would get off.

It did.

Then quite suddenly, the fish stopped biting. Kerewin carved up a seaperch, but even the change of bait didn't appeal.

"Ah well, we'll have a teabreak. The fish seem to have. Then we can go visit the groper patch. So called, I might add, because you grope round in it hopefully, not because it's loaded with hapuku."

The boy refuses sandwiches and fruit. "You still feeling queasy?" asks Joe. Simon says No, but looks involuntarily at the basket of bloody fish.

"That's making you feel crook?" Kerewin picks it up, as the boy

touches his nose. "Yeah, fishblood doesn't smell too rosy… it's probably that shark goo up your end too, Joe."

She balances the basket on the gunwales and sluices it down with the bailer. "Oath that's cold. They'll keep better for it, though." Joe's removing the blood and guts that landed in the boat during the shark shambles. "Watch that lot bring the toothy gentlemen round. Cannibalistic creeps."

"I'll have a go at them with the gaff even," says Joe. "How long we been out?"

"Nearly two hours."

"I thought so. That means I've averaged a fish and half a shark an hour."

"Never mind. I've caught enough for a feed, and a small smoke. And who knows what we'll catch in the groper patch?"

Simon's thumb.

It all goes sweetly until that happens.

Kerewin slung the anchor out as soon as she stopped the motor. It's a smaller patch than the other one, she says, and if they drift, they'll drift off it.

A breeze is up now, just enough to ruffle the water.

For some time, nobody catches anything, but it's pleasant sitting in the sun. The sea is jade green here, still as a pool when the breeze has passed. A jellyfish drifts by, glassy discoid pulsing, long purple tentacles dangling after it in a backwards slant. Something elongated and silver flashes down in the deep, too fast to see what.

Two mollymawks skid across the water on their pale feet and settle close by the boat.

"They're hopeful," says Joe, but Kerewin says it's a good sign. "They expect us to catch something they can share eh," and shortly afterwards the man hooks a large trevally. "Great!" she rejoices, "haven't seen one of those for damn near decades, and they're beautiful eating." "I'll catch us a couple more then" he jokes, and to their rowdy delight and astonishment, he does so. "Bloody wonderful," says Kerewin. "Forget the terakihi, those are the fellas we'll have for dinner… come on now, Sim. Catch us something spectacular." He grins. His fear and sickness are forgotten. He settles down on the middle seat, rod at the ready.

The mollymawks honk, and swim hopefully closer, and the boy begs for something to feed them. "Look at them, fat as pigs already.. But I suppose it's their due."

She cuts a seaperch into filleted chunks, and gives them to the boy.

The birds squawl and splash and gobble the fish. A third molly comes cruising past, and skates in to land in the middle of the feast.

"It's a bloody circus… hey, that one's different. Not toroa."

"A variety I guess," says Kerewin frowning, "but I haven't seen his sort around before." The newcomer is the same size as the other two, but where their heads are neat grey with dark brows, its head is shining white. Its bill is orange, flushed pink at the base, and the other mollys have black and yellow beaks, razor-keen. They all have the same appetite for fresh seaperch, however.

"Chuck that new bloke a bit, Himi. I think the others are ganging up on him."

The boy draws his arm back, aims, and at that moment the tip of his rod saws down. He grabs the butt and hangs on. The mollymawk, eye on the hunk of fish, nearly comes aboard, grabbing it.

"Out you cheeky bastard," yells Kerewin, and, "Hang on, boy."

Joe swings over from the bow seat and sits behind his son. "Want a hand?"

Simon shakes his head frantically. The rod is jerking down, down, down, in hard insistent tugs. The tip is under water, but the child clearly wants to catch whatever it is by himself.

"Okay, this hand's just here in case." He straddles the seat and holds the upper grip of the rod loosely. "When you want a rest, I'll take the strain." Sim nods. He's doing all he can, bracing the rod back.

"Looks a weight." She takes a waddy from under the stern seat, and slides the gaff up from the centre of the boat. "Keep it on, Sim… it's probably just a largish shark, but it might be a groper…."

The tugging stops and the rod straightens. Simon's face is misery incarnate. "Wind in," urges Joe. "Wind in quick, he might just be tired."

The boy winds in hopelessly, shoulders sagging. Three turns of the reel, four, and five, and wham! down goes the tip again.

They all yell.

This time the fish pulls for over five minutes before the line Slackens once more.

Joe braces the rod with both hands, and Simon winds in until again the fish hauls down.

"Oath, I wish I had a camera," says Kerewin.

The boy is gritting his teeth, hands whiteknuckled round the butt Of the rod. Just as well Joe has him caged in his arms, she thinks. If that thing pulls really hard I'll bet the urchin wouldn't let go even if he went in the drink… wonder how much longer he can hold out?

It's a grim death struggle: the fish might be tiring, only might, but the child definitely is. Sweat streams down his face, overflowing his cheekbones and dripping off his chin. All his effort is concentrated on holding, waiting for the next period of grace when the fish will cease struggling for deeper water. feel crook?" Kerewin picks

Just as well the reel's star-drag geared… you'd have lost a finger by now, or skin at least, the power dives this fish is making.

Twice more Simon gets to reel in line, the second time making tens of feet, and each time after, the enemy on the other end drags the rod tip down again.

"Sweet Lord, my wrists are getting sore," says Joe, and Simon groans in real anguish as the fish beats down again.

But it is near enough to the surface now for Kerewin to glimpse it.

"Not a shark, boy! Lean the other way, Joe." She balances against the gunwale, ready with gaff and club.

Simon is breathing raggedly, heavily, but he's winding up steadily now.

There's a brief flurry as the fish breaks water, but it's