“He’s got a tattoo and a pierced nipple.”

Maraea hit the double “p” in nipple like a judderbar – and shuddered as she watched Dallas amble across the forecourt into the service station.

“You know, the hardest thing is realising that he’s no longer a boy. When I left home, he was this gangly thing hiding under a baseball cap, and now he’s such a lad.”

“He’s very comfortable in his own skin though Cherub. I wish I’d had his confidence when I was twenty five.” 

John touched Maraea’s forearm.

“God, I wonder what he’ll get up to when he gets to London.”

“Probably shag himself senseless as soon as he’s away from his sister.”

“What do you think. Boys or girls?”

“He’d probably punch you if you asked him if he was gay. No I’d say he’s a raving heterosexual darling.” John always says darling like a drag queen when he’s stating the obvious.

As Dallas re-emerged, Maraea thought that John was probably quite right. It was as if Dallas wanted to exaggerate his masculinity when he walked: in days of yore, one would say he swaggered. Very aware of himself, very aware that he was potentially on display. The car soon filled with his new leather jacket and sweet aftershave with tobacco lower notes.

“You know why I took so long? I couldn’t get the guy to understand that I wanted batteries. In the end I had to show him my discman and he was like ‘aw bah-er-rees’. Jesus Christ.”

“You honestly get used to their accents after a while. I remember when I went home the last time. They had New Zealand news on the plane, and it was the weirdest thing hearing kiwi accents again. I actually thought it sounded disgusting.”

“Disgusting? Are you sick or something? Maybe you’ve been here too long.”

“I’m just saying you get so used to the difference that after a while it’s not different anymore.” 

Maraea’s vowels rounded.

“Well there’s a thought sis.”

Maraea could see Dallas smiling through the make-up mirror in the passenger’s visor. She fidgeted for a few seconds, pushed herself down into the comfort of her bucket seat, and reached for John’s hand. 

She pressed on thick blue veins through diaphanous skin, and gazed out at rolling hills and stone walls, comforted by the barely-there light of December in Avon. Dawdling through memories of her last visit home, Maraea remembered how sunburned she felt when she got back to Auckland from Omapere.

“Dallas, I think we’ll phone Mum when we get home,” she said, scratching her forearms.


Anton Blank (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu) is a public relations consultant working in Wellington. He is previously published in Growing Up Māori and Huia Short Stories 3. His work has also been accepted for publication in Coastal Voices,a collection of Wellington writing due out later this year.