Authors: Jared Thomas
First published 2014 by Magabala Books Aboriginal Corporation, Broome, Western Australia
Magabala Books receives financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, its arts advisory body. The State of Western Australia has made an investment in this project through the Department of Culture and the Arts in association with Lotterywest.
This manuscript was developed through the support of the State Library of Queensland's 2013 kuril dhagun Prize which is part of the State Library's black&write! Indigenous Writing and Editing Project.
Copyright Â© Jared Thomas 2014
All rights reserved. Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part of this publication may be reproduced by any process whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher.
Cover design Tracey Gibbs
Cover photograph Janette Milera, Â© 2014
National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry
Thomas, Jared, author.
Calypso summer/Jared Thomas
Young men â Australia â Fiction
Teenage boys â Australia â Fiction
Aboriginal Australians â South Australia â Fiction
Dedicated to past, present and future generations of Nukunu people Divided we are conquered, united we survive and prosper
It was thirty-nine degrees, my boss hadn't paid me and I was too broke to fix my piece of shit ten-speed. A woman in a skirt and bathers walked around the corner and quickly sidestepped out the way. People are always doing that type of thing to me. It's not my dreadlocks that freak people out. It's 'cause I'm black, and I ain't even that black. Just black enough for people to notice. I was just cruising home from work. It's not like I was wearing prison overalls. I looked alright! I was in my work clothes and my deadly new Pumas, same ones Usain Bolt wears. And he's the fastest man in the world.
I couldn't wait to just lie down under the air-conditioner. But Shane, my next door neighbour's kid, was standing in the driveway smoking a cigarette. The dickhead thinks he's tough.
âHey Calypso, I've got some good gear man, you want to buy a bag?' he said.
âOh man, you know I don't get wasted no more,' I told him.
âJust have a smoke, see what you think!'
âMan if I wanted ganja I'd have ganja, I've got way better things to do,' I told him as I just kept walking.
âJust one smoke,' he called out. I just kept thinking about the air-conditioning and told Shane to piss off.
âYou're a fake, Calypso. What kind of Rasta don't smoke weed?' Shane said before sulking back into his mum's place, his Australia flag board shorts almost falling off his runty little arse.
I hadn't smoked ganja for ages but I could smell it coming from my flat as I turned the key in the door. My cousin Run was trying to smoke away his worries as usual.
The air-conditioning was deadly when it hit me but I was pissed off with Run using all my electricity. I'd finally got my own little place, with my Bob Marley poster pinned up in the lounge, a television and DVD player from Cash Converters, a couch and fridge from the Salvos â and even a washing machine. But it wasn't me that was lapping it all up, Run was.
I threw my backpack on the couch and made my way to Run's room. I called out to him before I walked in. He'd been real depressed you know. If he'd tried doing anything stupid, I didn't want to walk in on the scene without warning.
There was no answer so I waited a tick. I heard his smoker's cough and then walked in. Run was lying on his mattress, flat on his back, just wearing track pants. His hands were folded beneath his messy black hair that was starting to dread like mine.
People think me and Run are brothers but he's my cousin and he's shorter and fatter than me anyway. He's also a few years younger. White people shit themselves when they see Run too because he has these little scars on his face and freaky green cat eyes that make him look wild and suspicious. He's taken so many drugs that you just can't trust him. Even when he's smiling, it's like he might just try to flog you at any time.
I looked at the water bong beside Run, still smoking away.
âYou right, cuz?' I asked.
Run didn't answer, he just stared at the ceiling.
âCome on, you've got to pick yourself up, cuz.'
Run hadn't been himself for months because his girlfriend, Kelly, left him for a parking inspector. She was only sixteen but she told Run that she liked a man in uniform and dropped him just like that. Run had taken it pretty badly. I'd had a couple of flat
mates that didn't pay bills and ended up pissing off so I let Run move in. He was desperate. And he begged me, saying he'd get a job and that. Mum was fed up with him living with her â¦ my big sister Evelyn and her kids living with her too. I thought I might be able to help cheer Run up but now I'm sick of always trying to lift his spirits, it's hard enough looking after myself.
I picked up the book that Run had taken from my room. It was my copy of
, this awesome graphic novel I won at school in a spelling competition when I was really trying to win an iPod. I turned a page and then spotted two dirty coffee cups and a plate with grease and a half eaten sausage stuck to it.
âFor fuck's sake Run, you've got to get out a bit. You'll have another woman before you know it and you'll regret wasting time.'
Run sat up and looked at me in confusion. âCalypso, what the hell are you talking about?'
âKelly mahn,' I said in my best Jamaican accent. âI know you're stressed about her cuz but you got to move on.'
âI'm not worried about Kelly â¦'
âWell that's good cuz,' I said.
âAnd even if I was, why shouldn't I be?' Run bit back.
âCause you and 'er finished ages ago bruz.'
âSo?' said Run.
âWell you're only eighteen, you've got your whole life to live.'
âI ain't got shit. I ain't got no woman, I ain't got nothing,' Run sulked.
âYou've got to go out and get what you want Run.'
âLike what Calypso?' Run asked and I was pleased because I'd wanted to tell him exactly what to do for ages.
âWell, while you're on the subject cuz, for a start, you need to get a job.'
âWhat for?' he sulked.
âYou've been staying with me for the last six months and you haven't paid me a cent of rent, Run. I've got electricity, phone bills, the whole lot owing and you haven't said you're gunna pay shit. You were all big time, “I'll get a job,” when you first moved in here, now what, cuz?'
âWell you're the rich one Calypso, you like working so much.'
âYeah, right! ... but working pays the bills, hey.'
âOh fuck off Calypso, you're the only blackfella that I know with a laptop and all!'
âYou know that girl I was seeing ages ago left it with me. She didn't want to pick it up, she didn't want to see my sorry black arse no more.'
âWell, you've even got mobile credit all the time! And just 'cause you've got a job you think that every blackfella can get one.'
âWell you can find a job, just start looking.'
âWhy, so you can take my money? What you need my money for?'
I considered Run's question for a second.
âWell cuz, I'm a young fella and young fellas are supposed to be looking for their woman right? â¦ And when I find my woman, I want to treat her right.'
âWhy you need money for a woman Calypso? Your idea of treating a woman right is fish and chips on the beach, a rich fella like you can afford that, easily.'
âYeah, but this time I might want to treat my woman real fine.'
Run propped himself up to sit cross-legged and asked me, âHow would you treat your woman fine?'
I had to think about it, I'd never given it much thought.
âCome on, what would you do?' Run asked again.
I let my mind wander to a dream this relief teacher got me thinking about when she brought in pictures of things we might want like flash houses, cars and holidays. There was this picture of the P&O
upon the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
âJust tell me one thing that you really want Calypso,' she said at the end of the class when she saw that I hadn't pasted any pictures or written anything I dreamed of on the flash paper she gave me.
âBut you don't have any pictures of the things I want Miss,' I told her.
âJust tell me,' she said almost begging.
âDon't tell anyone,' I whispered. She just stood there holding her breath waiting for me to say something. âWhen I have kids, I just want clean sheets on the bed for them.'
âOh Calypso. Anything else?' she asked getting all emotional and that.
âCurtains on the window and maybe a couch, like one out of a proper shop, not off the street.'
âOh Calypso,' she said again, real sad. Then, I couldn't believe it, two big fat tears ran down her face and she held out her arms to hug me! I just flexed it out of the classroom and started pissing myself laughing. I was only messing around with her.
But, I guess, if I really thought about it, they were the kinds of things I wanted, nothing flash. Mum doesn't have much you know. She hasn't bought anything for herself for years. Run and I used to have to remember her birthday three months in advance,
so we could steal something and pretend we'd saved up longest time. Good thing her birthday was in April because the biggest mobs of people would stay at the West Beach Caravan Park over the summer and leave their flash clothes on the line and shoes by their caravans. We'd grab Mum a dress or something. We'd grab things for ourselves too and say kids at school gave them to us hand-me-down.