A day out, that’s what they would have and it would be fun. They would go out. No one would complain. No, he wasn’t having a bar of it. They were having a day out, as a family. They were going to Dairyland like they used to when you girls were young and your mother was still a size fourteen.
The girls said, ‘Dairyland?’ and ‘You’ve got to be fucking kidding.’ And their mother threw them a look like, don’t even start with we must be kidding, your father is taking us to Dairyland and we’re going and we’re going to enjoy it. That’s the look she gave and she thought, Communication is the key to turning this around.
The girls were in the back seat and their father was singing in the front seat and every now and then stopping to say, remember this, Mary? Remember that, Mary? And their mother nodded and smiled and then their father would say, ‘Do you girls remember that? Iris? Lily? Daphne? Do you remember that?’ The girls said ‘Christ! Kill us now. Mother-fucking Dairyland,’ but under their breath this time so as not to get a look.
Their mother crocheted in Spring Green as they drove along the coast and the girls looked up through their fringes and wished they were dead. Their father said, ‘This will be fun,’ and ‘We can really turn this around,’ and the girls said ‘Yeah, it’ll be fun like having your tongue cut out with a pair of really blunt, baby-fingernail cutting scissors.’ Their mother threw them a look in the rear-vision mirror but it was wasted because of the angle, which was a shame because it was a goodie.
Their father said ‘Don’t smoke, girls,’ and they tsk-ed and raised their eyes and threw their cigarettes out the window and left the window unwound so as to let the wind blow through their hair, like they were on a cliff, staring out at the nothingness of their lives, like they’d never asked to be born, like no one cared, like they didn’t.
‘Read the brochure, Mary, whet our appetites,’ their father said.
Their mother got the laminated brochure out of the glove box. ‘At Dairyland you can see what goes on at the world’s biggest single-site dairy factory. The visitor centre features audio-visual and interactive displays, a fascinating glimpse into the way things used to be done and a chance to sample the produce.’
‘Crikey, girls, doesn’t that sound choice?’
The girls said, ‘Yeah Dad, choice,’ and wished they’d burnt down the whole fucking school.
No one understood them. They stood two on one side of their mother, one on the other, in front of the black and white dairy cow statue. Their father said ‘Move in a bit, Iris,’ and the girls said ‘I’m Iris!’ and ‘She’s Iris!’ and ‘Fuck!’ and looked at the sky and tsk-ed and said ‘Fuck this.’ Their father took the photo quickly as they walked away.
‘That’s a keeper, Mary,’ he said, and, ‘We can put it with the others and see how much they’ve grown. You girls have grown. By Crikey, Mary, haven’t the girls grown up? It seems like only yesterday you were strapped down and they were being dragged from you one by one by one. By Crikey, doesn’t time fly? Doesn’t time fly, girls? Wonder what we’ll all look like the next time we come to Dairyland. Good old Dairyland.’
The girls tried to dig their own eyes out but their mother noticed and threw them a look.
‘What shall we do first girls?’ their father said.
The girls threw him a look.
‘It says here the visitor centre features audio visual and interactive displays.’ Their mother read from a brochure she’d picked up off the counter.
‘Crikey, that sounds like a good place to start, eh girls?’
‘Oh – Dad – yeah,’ the girls said, ‘could we? Could we? Wow, how fucking choice! Awesome because the interactive displays offer a fascinating glimpse into the way things used to be done.’ And the girls said, ‘If there’s one thing we want it’s a fucking glimpse into how the fuck things used to be fucking done.’ And the girls asked, ‘Could we sample the produce?’ And the girls answered, ‘I do believe we can, Daphne. I believe we can can’t we, Dad.’ And finally the girls said, ‘Oh yes, the fabulous produce. You couldn’t go past a good glass of milk, eh Dad? Crikey. How choice.’
Their father smiled, ‘That’s the spirit girls.’ He was turning this around.
For fuck’s sake, mother-fucking Dairyland, they would rather cut their ears off with a plastic picnic-set butter-knife that had snapped off at the handle.
The girls smiled and no one said a word until Eltham, and then their father said ‘Crikey,’ and then nothing until Opunake when he said ‘I swear, you girls just don’t seem happy any more unless you’re setting fire to something.’ Maybe he should have drowned at least one of them when he had the chance, when they were small and separate. The girls smiled and said, ‘Did you see those audio-visual displays? By Crikey. Did they go up or what?’ and smiled some more. And their mother threw them a look like, how’s this going to look on your probation report? Eh? Eh? And the girls smiled. ‘I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to go back to Dairyland, girls. I think that might have been the last time we go to Dairyland,’ their father said and the girls said ‘That’s a shame. I kind of enjoyed this trip to Dairyland,’ and laughed and laughed. They were going to say ‘The real shame is you can only burn the fucking place down once,’ but their mother threw them a look, so they just smiled and looked out at the coast with the wind blowing in their hair, thinking maybe this was turning round, looking up, and they laughed again, thinking anything was possible.