by Dallas J. Baker

by Dallas J. Baker

I Go Far Away

by Dallas J. Baker

Godsall Street, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, Spring 1997

Jennie Scott came into the room where I was sleeping and shook my shoulder, saying, “Rise an’ shine, Pet, I gotta make my medicine an’ it’s a two-man job.”

I was staying with friends of friends and not familiar with my surroundings. She loomed over me, an unusually tall woman in her mid-thirties, weighing 300 pounds at the very least, wearing a white beehive wig. The wig gave off a faint scent of cigarette smoke mixed with Kahlúa. Her false eyelashes made her eyelids look like huge butterflies. I closed my eyes and opened them again. She was still there, her silver sequin mini-dress reflecting the dawn light just coming in the window; she shone in the half-light like a strange, haloed saint.

It looked as though she’d only recently got home, her car keys and high-heels dangling from the hand that wasn’t clutching my shoulder. The night before, I’d gone to bed just as Jennie was going out for the evening

“Wakey, wakey,” she chuckled, shaking my shoulder some more, “and hands off snakey.” Each time she shook my shoulder, her belly fat jiggled, causing the sequins of her dress to shimmer in waves. The shimmering light triggered memories of a childhood camping trip to Lake Leslie, an hour south of town, of sneaking out of my tent at midnight to watch the reflection of the full moon dancing on the broad water.

“Stop dreamin’, Petal, and get up. My mum’s medicine is waitin’.”

“Medicine? What?”

“I gotta make my medicine, I’m feelin’ pinched. There’s only one thing that helps when I’m feelin’ all pinched like this, and that’s my mum’s medicine. Now come on, I need you to chop.”

She walked out of the room, jiggling and glimmering, leaving me to wonder if coming here had been a mistake. I was born in Toowoomba and grew up there, but had left for Brisbane a decade before. When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to get out, to go someplace, anyplace else. We were poor, my dad a labourer and occasional truck driver, my mum a housewife and occasional depressive. I got bullied a lot for being weird, mostly for liking books and looking girly. When I left, I swore I’d never go back again. But a recent brush with death triggered an unwelcome homesickness.

A car I was a passenger in lost control on a tight turn and rolled multiple times down a hill. The driver was a friend and he was stoned on hashish. When the car came to rest it looked like a broken accordion. The skin on three of my fingers was scraped off. A cut on my ankle bled so that my boot overflowed with blood. When I unlaced the boot, the blood drained away and I could see the white of my ankle bone. My head spun and my eyebrow ached from a serious lump blooming there from smacking into the dashboard. My stoned friend didn’t have a scratch. The cop who came to the scene shook his head as I sat by the side of the road cradling my skinless fingers and said, “What were you thinking, getting into a car with that idiot? You’re lucky you weren’t killed. Your side of the car is a write off.”

The next day I woke sore and sorry, a numbness in my gut. Over the following week, the numbness evolved into homesickness for Toowoomba.

Now I haul myself out of bed and grab the first clothes I can find in the nearly dark room, the jeans and Joy Division T-shirt I’d worn the day before. I pulled them on and headed out into the hall and toward the kitchen. The sound of Jennie taking pots and pans out of cupboards echoed in the hall, accompanied by the meaty rhythm of her plump feet padding about on the cedar floorboards.

A cold breeze blew in. September mornings in Toowoomba could be chilly. I’d forgotten that. The breeze came from a door across the hallway from my room. I peeked in and saw that the window and a set of French doors leading onto the veranda were open. The air stirred a jumble of sequins, feathers, and wigs that cover every surface: Jennie’s room.

I’d only met Jennie the day before. She knew Ray, the middle-aged guy who, with his partner Steve, owned the house. “We call the house Dawnie,” Ray said when I’d arrived, “after my grandmother, who lived to 102. She loved these big weatherboard Queenslanders.” Ray and Steve were fastidious renovators. Each room looked as pristine and fresh as it must have when the house was built in the 1880s. The bedrooms featured French doors that opened onto a wrap-around veranda that looked over the tree-lined street and a large park opposite.

“That’s Queen’s Park,” Ray said, not knowing I grew up in Toowoomba. He opened the doors and led me out. The veranda was ornamented with unusually elaborate fretwork, even for a Queenslander: a cast-iron garden of vines with fat bunches of grapes and tiny, intricately wrought bumblebees. “The park was established in 1865,” Ray explained. “It’s sixty-four acres of mature trees, grassy slopes and gorgeous flower beds. Oh, and lately the odd homeless nutcase as well.” He smirked at his own joke while I made a mental note to keep the French doors to my bedroom locked.

As I peered out over the park, scanning for crazy hobos, I considered telling Ray that I was originally from Toowoomba, but decided against it. I didn’t want to explain why I was back, preferring to keep the awful homesickness, and its cause, to myself. After long minutes scanning the park, I still couldn’t see any hobos, just the lengthening shadows of tall trees as the sun crept lower in the sky. Soon the shadows were so thick that it was hard to distinguish individual trees.

“Back in a tic,” Ray said as he stepped back inside, leaving me to watch the setting sun alone. A minute later, I heard him flip a switch and then the veranda was suddenly twinkling with thousands of fairy lights. In full dark, they would make the wrought iron grapevine seem alive with fireflies.

Jennie came out, a pink boob tube stretched to its limit over her large breasts and larger belly, her feet bare, a half-empty tumbler of Kahlúa and milk in one hand and a smouldering cigarette in the other. “They’re pretty, aren’t they,” she said, gesturing at the twinkling lights with the drink clutched in her chubby hand. “Like a galaxy of teeny-weeny stars.”

Something about her made me wary. It wasn’t the fact that she was drunk, or that she was dressed like a girl half her age. It was something about her eyes. They had a far-off, dazed look about them. They made me think of sadness and fear.

“This is Jennie, a friend of ours,” Ray said. “She’ll be your hostess for the weekend. Steve and I are going to Brisbane for a few days to buy antiques.”

“Hi Pet, ain’t you a cutie,” Jennie said, smiling and taking a sip of her drink, winking at me over the milky rim of her glass. I forced a friendly smile back, though not very convincingly. “And don’t you have a lovely smile,” she said, a bomb of ash falling from her cigarette to the floor.

I took in the ash on the floor, Jennie’s bare feet, and bulging belly, and then the museum-like neatness of the room beyond the French doors behind her. Ray and Steve were either very brave or very foolish to leave her in charge of their house. They’d be lucky if she didn’t burn it to the ground. As soon as Ray went to pack the car for his weekend away, I excused myself and retreated through the French doors to my room, locking them behind me.

The guestroom had a window seat perfect for hiding out with a book, which was where I was when Ray and Steve drove off. I watched as their car coasted down the dark street and out of sight. I felt like a child being left home alone for the first time. Smoke clouds wafted in the window from the veranda. The smoke had a distinctive odour that I recognized immediately. I went through the French doors and along the veranda to the front where Jennie, cool as a cucumber, sat on an old wicker peacock chair smoking a massive joint.

“Is that marijuana?” I asked, more out of surprise than anything.

“Yep, sure is, Pet. You want a toke?”

“No. You do realize that they’ll be able to smell that all the way down the street?”

“Well, that’s too bad, ’cause I’m not sharin’ it with any of ’em. The neighbours are all snobs,” she said.

I went back inside, fearing an imminent drug bust. Once Jennie finished the joint, she raided Ray and Steve’s liquor cabinet to make a bucket-sized jug of Kahlúa and milk, which she proceeded to drink straight from the jug with a twirly straw. She spent the next few hours sprawled on a chaise longue in the sitting room, drinking, smoking joints, eating potato crisps and watching soap operas. The police—apparently not as zealous as they were supposed to be—never came, which disappointed me a little.

When I entered the kitchen, using my hand to iron out the creases in my Joy Division T-shirt, Jennie lit the gas cooker, her white beehive leaning dangerously close to the flame. The flickering blue fire of the cooker was mirrored a dozen times in the silver sequins of her mini-dress. I remembered Lake Leslie again, the full moon heavy above the dark water and me sitting close with another boy on the grassy shore, sweating in the midnight heat and holding hands. The boy was from Brisbane and I’d totally forgotten about him.

I sat down at the breakfast table. Her discarded heels were lying in a jumble beside a bowl of unfinished cereal and a crusty coffee cup. I wondered what Ray and Steve would think of that.

“I’m very pinched,” Jennie said, almost to herself, as she plonked a frying pan on the flame and turned to the bench to start dicing onions. “Very, very pinched.” She jiggled and shimmered over to the table and placed a cutting board and knife in front of me, then went to a wooden locker by the fridge to retrieve a handful of garlic cloves, which she piled onto my board. “Peel ’em an’ chop ’em,” she said, “then when you’re finished I’ll give you somethin’ more to do…I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t so pinched. I need to get my medicine ready fast.” Jennie’s mossy green eyes look softer today, like a little girl’s, still kind of sad but not as dazed.

“Fine, I’ll help,” I said, “on one condition.”

“I don’t have time for any conditions, Pet.”

I pushed the knife and cutting board away from me and dropped my hands onto the table. The breeze picked up, moving the Jacaranda’s leaves and dislodging a handful of vivid purple blossoms so that they fell in a slow, drifting motion to the ground.

“Okay,” Jennie said. “What’s your one condition?”

“That you stop calling me Pet or Petal. My name is Dallas.”

“I can’t call you Dallas, I got a cousin named Dallas and he’s a real dropkick. You’re just going to have to let me call you Pet.”

“Well, I’m not chopping, then.”

“I am too pinched for this!” she said. I jumped in my seat and looked into her eyes, glistening with forming tears.

“Fine, I’ll chop,” I grumbled, hoping that by chopping I’d avoid any further drama. Jennie went back to what she was doing before I came in the room. I watched her for a while, waiting for the tension to dissipate, and then reluctantly picked up the knife and a fat clove of garlic. Once I felt it safe, I spoke again. “What do you mean when you say you’re feeling pinched?”

“Well, Petal,” she said, “Pinched is when you feel all squeezed, bothered, upset, like that.”

“Ah huh, so why are you feeling pinched?”

“Why am I pinched? There’s just one reason: Lobelia,” she declared.

“What’s Lobelia?”

“What’s Lobelia? I’ll tell you what Lobelia is: Lobelia Thompson is my archenemy. I’ll tell you what else she is: She’s 90-percent snake, 10-percent cat, and 50-percent total lyin’ bitch. You know what she’s been doin’? She’s been spreadin’ it all over town that I was born in West Warning. I cannot stand her sayin’ that about me. No, Petal, I will not stand for that. And you know why I won’t allow her to say that about me?”

I shrugged. Jennie used her knife to sweep the onions into the frypan. “Cause it’s true! I am from West Warning. And I can’t for the life of me understand how Lobelia knows. I don’t want nobody here to know that, I’ve kept it secret for as long as I’ve been in Toowoomba, which is like years and years. I ’specially didn’t want damn lyin’ Lobelia Thompson knowin’ about it!”

“Why don’t you want anybody to know?” I asked. “What’s wrong with coming from West Warning?”

“You ever been to West Warning, Pet?”

“No.”

“Well, you’re lucky. You know what they got at West Warning?”

I shrugged again.

“Nothin’, they haven’t got nothin’ at West Warning, apart from the Drovers’ Arms, a rundown pub that’s also a petrol station. It’s not even a proper town, just a stop off on the way to bigger places. That’s why I left, just as soon as my mum died of her leaky heart. She always said I was born for somethin, not the nothin’ that’s West Warning.”

“So, you moved to Toowoomba after your mother died?”

“Well, I tried livin’ in Brisbane first but that didn’t work out.” She took a wooden spoon from a drawer and stirred the simmering pan, then licked the spoon before putting it on the bench.

I made another mental note not to eat anything cooked by Jennie Scott. “Why didn’t Brisbane work out?”

“Well, Petal, I’m all about parades. Toowoomba has a bunch of parades, like the Carnival of Flowers an’ stuff. The only big parade in Brisbane is the one for Saint Patrick’s Day, an’ Pet, I am not Irish and green is not my colour.”

I tried to imagine Jennie in a puffy green ball gown, the kind I’d seen women wearing in Saint Patrick’s Day parades. I couldn’t quite picture it. Jennie was right: green was not her colour, despite her eyes, or perhaps because of them. I crushed another clove of garlic under my knife, peeled it and chopped it up.

“Is this enough?” I asked.

Jennie looked over and smiled. “Sure is,” she said, “that’s plenty. Pop them in the pan for me, Pet, while I get some bacon.”

I took my garlic to the pan and dropped it in. It sizzled satisfyingly. I peered into the frypan, watching the onions and garlic cooking in a glistening pool of melted butter. The aroma was full, somewhat sweet and very familiar. I thought of breakfasts cooked by my mother when I was a child, winter breakfasts of eggs and onions and fried Roma tomatoes eaten in the old yellow-walled kitchen in the house where I grew up, on the other side of town. It’d been years since I thought about that old weatherboard house and that kitchen. I closed my eyes to better remember. Another pang of acute homesickness hit me, worse than normal.

Before coming to Ray and Steve’s, I’d walked past my old house, went to all the places I’d known as a kid, sat in the park where I used to play, even went past my old school, but it hadn’t worked. We’d sold the house years ago. My mother, with no children left at home, divorced my father and moved away. I haven’t seen her for over a year.

I leaned over the stove and let the hot buttery air coming off the pan coat my eyelashes and the skin of my cheeks. I sighed, relaxing into the warmth and the familiar smell. The damp heat on my face felt strangely soothing. It made me think of not only our old yellow kitchen but of that boy on the lakeshore and how he’d leant in close and put his hand up my T-shirt onto my chest and said, “Is it okay if I touch you?” I could almost feel his sweaty hand there, the warmth of his palm against my nipple. Perhaps there was something to Jennie’s medicine after all.

I heard the fridge swing closed and Jennie come up behind me, laughing. “You know what that’s called, Pet,” she said, clutching three huge rashers of fatty bacon in her plump hands. “What you’re doin’, with your head over the pan like that? That’s what we call a poor girl’s beauty treatment. Butter and heat together are real good for the skin. Well, poor girls’ skin, anyway. I’m not sure if it’ll help you, seein’ as you’re a boy, and rich. But you know what they say, it can’t hurt.”

“I’m not rich,” I said, my working-class pride stinging a little.

“Not rich? Petal, aren’t you on holidays? Didn’t you come to Toowoomba just to see your old house where you grew up and go to the Carnival of Flowers like you did when you were a little kid?”

“Well, yes, I suppose.”

“Then you’re rich, Pet. Nobody that’s poor can do that. Hell, no one in my family has ever been on a real holiday. I’m the only one who’s even been on an interstate bus!” She ripped the bacon into pieces with her hands and tossed it into the pan, licking the raw grease from her fingers before taking up the wooden spoon again and stirring the bacon around. “It’s got to be cooked in butter,” she said. “Butter is best. You don’t wanna use none of that canola or olive oil. Everyone reckons canola and olive oil is healthier, but Pet that isn’t the way my mum’s medicine is made. An’ I gotta have my medicine made right. If it isn’t done right, it just isn’t proper medicine to me.”

“What exactly is this medicine?” I asked.

“I told you when I woke you up. It’s my mum’s medicine, ’cause I’m feelin’ pinched.”

“Yes, but what’s in it?”

“Bacon and butter beans. There’s nothin’ like bacon and beans to make you feel better when you’re feelin’ pinched, ’specially my mum’s beans. My mum’s recipe is the best. She used to make it for me when the boys back at West Warning were cruel to me. It always made me feel better.”

“Were the boys often cruel to you?” I pictured Jennie as a little girl, precocious, just as outspoken and almost as round. I knew the answer before she gave it. If the boys around here had bullied me for being girly and bookish, they would’ve bullied Jennie for being overweight and loud.

“Hell yes, those West Warning boys were cruel to me every chance they got. They hated me, Pet. Hated me like I was the devil. One boy, this one boy—”

The wooden spoon in her hand fell still. She was a fleshy statue, a waxwork figure, silent and motionless but for a few small tears pooling in the corners of her eyes. The frypan sizzled and a strange, laboured breathing emitted from Jennie’s slightly open mouth.

She wiped away budding tears. “Get me some salt and pepper, Pet, will ya?” She motioned with her head towards the pantry. When I came back she was cooking again.

“Thanks, Petal,” she said. “Mum’s medicine depends on salt and pepper, utterly depends on it.” After tipping the whole can of speckled beans into the simmering pot and turning down the heat, she made a small, satisfied sigh. “I’m feeling less pinched already, I can’t wait to eat some, then I’ll be feelin’ pretty good.” She turned toward me and patted me on the arm. “Come on, let’s watch some church while we’re waitin’. These beans won’t be ready for a little while.”

The sitting room of Ray and Steve’s place was large, with high, white pressed-metal ceilings ornamented with grape vines painted with bright green leaves that almost smell of a vineyard and purplish-black grapes. The chaise longue, where Jennie drank her bucket of Kahlúa the day before, sat on spindly timber legs in front of French doors that opened onto the veranda, a perfect vantage point for watching passersby on the leafy street outside.

“Do you like the colour of the walls in here, Pet?” Jennie asked, gesturing towards walls of a deep green where patches of refracted light from the sash windows shimmer and dance. “Ray and Steve let me pick the colour. It’s called Vintage Christmas Green. Funny name, huh, but it’s a good colour.”

“It’s great.”

“Thanks, Pet. I didn’t pick the furniture, that’s all down to the boys, all antiques, they love their antiques. This stuff is all mostly Victorian, except for the television of course, oh and that big red sofa, that’s Art Deco, I think.”

“It’s gorgeous,” I said, admiring the sofa’s rounded arms and red velvet upholstery. “It must’ve cost a fortune.”

“Sure did, but the boys love to spend money on Dawnie, especially in here.”

“It shows,” I said. “When they first took me through the house, they brought me straight into this room. The rest of the house is just as beautiful, just as nicely restored.”

“Oh, I don’t think so. I think this room has that little something extra that takes it to another level.”

“What’s the little something extra?” I asked.

Jennie gestured around the room, at the walls and the Persian rugs and the furniture. “Beautiful things speak for themselves,” she smirked, putting a hand on her fleshy hip.

She turned and, even though the sun was now well and truly up, flipped a switch that turned on the crystal chandelier hanging low from the ceiling. Its many bulbs glowed brightly white, reflecting in the dark molasses of the floorboards. Jennie barefooted it across those floorboards towards the sofa.

“That”s an amazing chandelier,” I said to Jennie as I followed her into the room.

“I know. It’s really pretty, isn’t it? I picked that too,” she said as she stretched out on the couch.

“Ray and Steve must really trust you,” I said.

“They’ve adopted me. I’m like their little baby girl,” she said. She looked down at the floor. “But they don’t really like me. Not truly. They just feel sorry for me.” She looked into my eyes. “I don’t have anybody of my own, never have, never had a long-term boyfriend or anything, and my family are all gone. But, you can’t really be friends with people who feel sorrier for you than they like you.”

She turned away and switched on the television, changing the channel to a local station. The strident voice of a young American televangelist filled the room: Beware the filth of the gutter, the whores and pimps and homosexuals, they are the henchmen of Satan and will lead you to sulphur and fire! The televangelist’s angry voice didn’t match his slicked-back brown hair, blue eyes and thick, nerdy glasses, a kind of fire-and-brimstone Elvis Costello.

“Oh Gawd, will you look at him!” Jennie said. “This guy’s a real nut.” She patted the seat beside her. “Come join me in the gutter, Pet, an’ watch some church with me. I love watchin’ church. It’s like having a bad dream that you can turn off when you’ve had enough of it.”

“I don’t know how you can watch this stuff, it’s awful. Look at this guy: He’s practically bursting with hate. Why have an American minister on Australian TV, anyway?”

“Don’t be racist, Pet, Americans are people too,” she said. “Besides, it’s like I said, hateful things are fine if you can turn ‘em off when you’ve had enough of ‘em. It’s the hateful things you can’t turn off that I don’t like. You know, like nightmares and such.”

“Do you have many nightmares?”

“Gawd, do I. Sometimes I think all the nightmares in the world are livin’ in my head, like my brain is a store-all where every bad dream that ever existed is kept.”

“What are your nightmares about?”

“Petal, you do not want to know. You really don’t.”

“Are they that bad?”

“Bad enough to make a shrink go crazy.”

“Really?”

“Yep, Doctor Lovett was his name, had a real nice office on Margaret Street. I saw him a handful of times last year, Steve and Ray paid for it. After a few hours listenin’ to me talk about my walkin’ nightmares, he quit his job, left his wife an’ kids an’ went to live in a shack out in the bush somewhere way out west of Lake Leslie.”

I thought of my night at the lake, and how that Brisbane boy had pressed up against me and turned my lips toward his and kissed me. I almost tasted the kiss. I couldn’t see the boy’s face or remember his name or how I even knew him.

“Steve says my mental health is the worst investment he and Ray ever made,” Jennie said, “a total waste of hundreds of dollars. But I don’t think it was a total loss. I did feel a little better for the talkin’.”

“So, what happened to you that you have nightmares so bad they send shrinks crazy?” I both keenly wanted to know and never, ever wanted to find out.

“Oh, Petal, I don’t wanna tell you the details. I like you too much to put those things in your head. But, I’ll tell you this much: Those boys from West Warning, they know how to hurt a girl, they know how to torture a girl, to really make her scream. A girl knows the meanin’ of the word torment when those West Warning boys get at her. Those boys know how to make a girl hurt so bad she wants to die. This one boy … This one boy. He—” Her breathing stopped, but then she took a deep breath.

I want to reach out and touch her, but assume that she’d flinch, still wary of a man’s touch.

If a man lies with another man as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination! They shall surely be put to death! Their blood is on their own heads! The geeky evangelist is reading from the Bible now, becoming more frenzied with each line. The means of execution in ancient times was stoning, he says, the homosexuals were stoned to death!

Jennie stared at the television, transfixed. She was still again, her breathing ragged, her eyes fixed on the screen. With her head turned, I could look at her more closely. I saw a constellation of small scars on her shoulders and the back of her neck, some jagged, some perfectly round, some like crosshatch marks. The righteous men shower the sinner with stones until they are dead. Jennie’s hand jerked to her shoulder and her fingers traced the pattern of scars, as though reading a message etched in braille. I reach out to take her hand, to drag it away from that awful braille and hold it in mine, but she moved her hand back into her lap and I lost my nerve.

Your donation will help rid the world of sin and pain, the televangelist called out, as a toll free number flashed on the screen. Jennie went over to a phone on a desk. She picked up the receiver and started to dial the number.

“You’re not going to give that lunatic money, are you?”

The receiver hung loose in her hand, emitting a dull dial tone. She looked at me, then at the television, then at the phone.

“I want the world to be free of pain,” she said. “I … I wanna be free of pain.” I grabbed the remote and turned off the TV. Her eyes settled on me, narrowing to see me more clearly. Two men walked by on the pavement outside, passing the French doors, talking loudly and laughing. Slowly, Jennie hung up the receiver and sat next to me on the sofa. She took my clammy hand in her plump ones.

“I’m sorry, Pet,” she said. “I … I go away sometimes.”

“Go away?”

“Yes, sometimes I just gotta get away from where I’m at, where I’m at in my head, you know.”

“Where do you go?”

“Into my mum’s arms.”

She squeezed my hand. I squeezed hers back.

The cooking butter beans smell wafted into the room. “Will those beans be ready yet?” I asked, as much for myself as for Jennie.

“Ready enough.” She got back up and headed towards the kitchen. When I entered the kitchen she had already tasted the beans, using the same wooden spoon.

“Oh, Pet, those beans are delicious,” she said, blowing on a second spoonful of beans before eagerly putting it into her mouth. “Yep, this medicine is cooked perfect.” She took two pale blue bowls out of the cupboard and filled them to the brim with Bacon and Beans.

Jennie sat the bowls on the table. She handed me a fork. Jennie and I ate in silence until our bowls were empty.

“I feel good now, full, not pinched at all,” Jennie said, patting her sequined belly. “Mum’s medicine always works, always stops me feelin’ pinched.”

“So you’re not angry at Lobelia Thompson anymore?”

“Nah, Lobelia’s 30-percent inbred, so I can forgive her being a loudmouth just this once. Tell me, that medicine didn’t make you feel good?”

“It did. I feel very good. How about you, are you really okay?”

“Oh, I’ll be fine. On a bad day, when I’m feelin’ very pinched and everythin’s gettin’ me down, I can go away a dozen or more times, but some days I don’t go away at all. On really bad days, I make my mum’s medicine. Once I’ve had my butter beans, I’m right for a while.”

She smiled, running a finger around the edge of her empty bowl to collect the last traces of the buttery sauce. She pops the finger in her mouth and sucks it clean. “One bowl of those beans and I can’t barely remember that I ever came from West Warning, and those boys, those boys that hurt me can’t hurt me no more.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

“Sorry don’t help, Pet,” she said firmly. “Sorry don’t help at all. Pity isn’t any kind of medicine.” She wiped her eyes and mouth and got up and went to the stove, refilling her blue bowl with butter beans. “That’s why, when the nightmares start walkin’ around durin’ the daytime, I have to make my medicine fast. If I can’t make my medicine, then I can’t help it, I just go away … and Pet, I go far, far away sometimes.”

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About Dallas J. Baker

Dallas J. Baker is a writer based in Australia. He has been published in a number of journals including TEXTLodestar QuarterlyRetort MagazineBukker Tillibul and Polari Journal. His work has also appeared in a number of anthologies such as Bend, Don’t Shatter (2004), Dumped (2000 and US edition 2002), When You’re A Boy (2011) and Hold On! (2012). His book of travel essays, America Divine: Travels in the Hidden South, was released in 2011. Dallas has a PhD in Writing from Griffith University and works as an academic in Writing and Cultural Studies at Southern Cross University in Australia.

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