Haven’t You Been Told This Story?
You’re a bright kid, Sam.
You’re a good kid.
You look smart in your school uniform. Doing your senior years at Burnside is just what you need.
You should stop worrying about your brother. Jared’s your dad’s responsibility, not yours.
There’s no swearing in this house. You can think of something more original to say.
You’re a sweetheart really.
Your dad is not good at communicating. Men are like that.
He’s a bad influence. It’s a pity your brother’s turning out like him. But you don’t have to.
You should stop defending your father. You’ve got a lot to learn about how the world works.
Your brother is more than a handful; he’s a terror. There’s something wrong with him. Don’t look so worried. It’s okay to have arguments, that’s what families do.
Go to your room. I’m your mother. Of course I can tell you to do that.
You’ve got a good appetite. It’s not a criticism. I’d just forgotten what boys eat.
It’s great how you get on well with Keri. You two have so much in common. The same sense of humour, the same naïve outlook.
You’re probably straight. You’re allowed a girlfriend, you know. Just no sex under this roof.
Keri is a darling. She’s so gorgeous. She’s always thinking about the best for both of us.
You’re so attached to that brother of yours. It’s not good for either of you. He shouldn’t be calling you. That’s why your dad got long distance calls barred. Next time Jared rings, hang up.
Boys should never, ever, threaten their mothers. You’re a lot bigger than you realise.
You spend too much time on those model trains. It’s becoming obsessive.
You ought to play a sport.
You’re actually very patient. It’s difficult for teenagers when their mum’s partner moves in.
You shouldn’t mumble like that in front of your teachers. You’re a perfectly articulate young man.
You’re a smart cookie. You just need to apply yourself. Those teachers are giving you an easy go, saying all that. But success in this world is not about brains, it’s about application.
You don’t want to repeat fifth form.
It’s a pity your childhood wasn’t as stable as it could have been, all that to-ing and fro-ing. But that can’t be helped. We do what we can.
For such intelligence, you don’t seem to use your common sense very often.
Not everyone wants to talk about Jared. Yes, it is a sad story. All we can do is hope that when he’s a grown up, he comes right. That some tragedy doesn’t happen first.
You have to speak to us Sam, you live with us.
You’re getting a new brother or sister. It’s perfectly natural. Two women can want to have children. They will be your sibling. Because they’ll be my child and you’re my child and that makes you siblings. You do not have ‘too many siblings already.’ That’s a terrible thing to say. Besides, that’s your dad’s side.
It’s not true no-one’s parents stay together.
You may not talk to me like that.
You can’t go to your dad’s for Christmas. Jared didn’t earn it. And think about us, how we’d feel if you charged off up north for Christmas.
You should show a little more gratitude around here. Some kids are paying board at your age.
That bright future your ICT teacher talked about — you’d better work harder if you want to end up there and not turn out like your father.
Remember to rinse the dishes after you wash them.
We’ll give you driving lessons if you want them. The next few months would be good, before the baby comes.
Ha, I’ll give you that. You and Connor don’t look at all alike. He’s not the son of a sperm donor, ratbag, he’s my son. He’s definitely got Keri’s nose, and her hair.
You’re good at this. You quite like babies, huh?
You’re a marvel with him.
You’re allowed to go out, you know.
You deserve those results. I’ve seen how hard you’ve been working this year.
Don’t listen to Keri, ‘You’re going to make a great husband…lucky girl…’ Puh. This isn’t the 1960s. And it might be a lucky boy.
Keri has a different take on money than I do. It’s my name on the mortgage, and before you go borrowing more to set up a clothing store, you’ve got to do the research. Be really sure about it. Try it small scale first, maybe online. It’s a lot of money just to purchase stock.
You shouldn’t interrupt adult discussions. You’re not winning yourself any favours.
It is not shit yarning to talk like this. That’s what women do, figure things out by talking them through.
You’ve turned out alright, all things considered.
That child adores water. You’re so patient with him.
She’s a nice girl. You do realise you can just invite her over for a meal, not just to do assignments.
Shoplifting! No one in our family gets arrested. God knows how your grandparents will take it. Keri called me straight away, after you called her first. I don’t understand you sometimes. I just can’t fathom why you did it. Keri says it’s because you’ve had a chaotic few years. But that’s not the kind of family we are. You cannot just pass the blame on like that. I know you didn’t say it! But you won’t give me any other answer. Is it because you’re distracted at school? You need to try harder. Or is it ‘cause you’re trying to punish me? That’s what I worry about but that’s ridiculous. The reason doesn’t matter. You chose to do it, and I am so disappointed.
That’s it for modelling exhibitions for you. That’s the consequence of your actions.
You’re risking not being able to travel. You’ve risked your future career, your whole prospects. Theft is serious.
No child of mine thinks shoplifting is okay. Please listen when I’m speaking to you. Connor will be as happy to have you play with him in five minutes as he is now.
My workmate’s theory is you did it because we’re so focussed on Connor but I told her you love Connor.
I am getting so tired of your bullshit.
You’ve embarrassed the whole family.
Keri told you that? Well, getting arrested for a protest is nothing like getting arrested for shoplifting. That was ’81, it was important, everyone I knew was there.
It doesn’t matter that I was pregnant, I stayed right at the back.
You brought this on yourself. You should have thought about what a lawyer costs earlier. I’ll do it but you’ll be paying me back.
Keri! That’s a terrible thing to say. It’s not that he shouldn’t have got caught – he shouldn’t have done it. Shouldn’t even have considered it in the first place. It’s so dishonest. The kids I work with, they have it a hundred times worse than you, and you don’t see them in the Warehouse stuffing art supplies in their pockets.
Keri shouldn’t be writing you that character reference, pretending she’s not family.
Discharged without conviction, huh. Bloody patriarchal justice system. You’re such a nice young ‘lad’. All that ‘potential’.
Keri is far, far too light on you. It’s not doing anything good for this family.
You’re certainly Connor’s favourite tonight.
When you’re working to support a family of four, you have to do long hours. That is why I won’t be home till late.
Do you put any effort into this relationship at all Sam? Do you care even a smidgen about what I think?
You ought not to side with Keri all the time. Just because you find her a soft touch.
It’s a hard life being one, eh Connor. Too many changes around here huh?
You two keep ganging up on me.
You should put a heater on in here. You’ll get sick.
I find it unfair that your dad’s the unreliable one, yet it’s me you get pissed off at. When you and Jared have been with me, you’ve never gone hungry, never wagged school, never caused worry for the neighbours, never been in serious trouble.
The arrest was your own doing.
Keri and I need some time apart, to sort things out. It’s a mutual decision.
I am not doing it again. Is that how you see me? What happened when you were little, you see that as my fault? Do you have any idea what it’s like to try and be partners with your father?
Keri’s being narrow-minded.
Keri is not out, Sam. It’s 7:30 on a Tuesday, she’s at home washing the dishes having just put Connor to bed. Ask her if she’ll call me back because –
It’d be really polite if you actually answered the phone when I called.
I have not deserted him.
I miss you. Do you miss me?
Why don’t you bring Connor to see me? You ought to — he’s my son. You’re my son. It’s not going behind Keri’s back, it’s letting Connor see his mum. You’re always telling me I ought to see more of him.
Gosh, his hair’s getting long.
I bet Keri’s let the house get cluttered.
I’ll admit I haven’t always done the best by you.
She shouldn’t be so bloody upset about it. One visit to a playground so I could see my sons. You told her, didn’t you? You were always terrible at keeping secrets when you were a child. God, well she should know I’m seeing Connor. She should be encouraging it.
You always hated me.
There’s someone new in my life.
You wouldn’t want to come to Hamilton. You’re a young man, you’ve got university ahead of you. You should stay where all your friends are.
You’d like Derek. It’s a pity you don’t have the courtesy to come and visit.
The decent thing to do would be to reply to my emails, Sam.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Frances Mountier completed her MA in Creative Writing at the IIML in 2009. Her work has appeared in Sport, Takahē, Renegade House, Hue & Cry, JAAM, An Aotearoa Affair and Flash Frontier, and she is the recipient of the 2012/2013 Lavinia Fellowship at New Pacific Studio Mt Bruce. She is working on a novel about a Christchurch family.