The Matter of the Mosque
Week One: Hairspray or Mousse
Carly and Tara and Kelly are sitting on the floor. Each has a brush in her hand, and they are all brushing their little daughters’ hair. The children sit with heads bowed, very still, legs crossed, hands gripping their feet. The feet are in pale pink ballet slippers. Legs covered with the powdery cloth of ballet tights. Silky black leotards, skimpy skirts, crossover tops with long sleeves concealing skinny little arms.
‘Sometimes, I can’t decide which is better, hairspray or mousse,’ Carly says. Her daughter Peyton shifts a fraction sideways on the carpet.
‘I know. Sometimes I reckon it’s the spray,’ says Tara as she slowly draws the brush from Nevaeh’s forehead towards the centre of her skull.
‘I love spray,’ says Kelly, holding the brush in the air above Cadence’s head.
Sunlight entering in strips through the half-closed slat blind, falls on the hands and the hairbrushes, and on the smooth round surfaces of the children’s heads. All heads glint dark gold. There could be a halo around one of the heads.
More small girls flutter in with their mothers. One father. He’s a paramedic. The air in the room wriggles and shifts while he unzips his daughter’s jacket, and positions the child on the floor where she waits quietly for the door to the studio to open. He leaves, a handsome shape in navy blue with badges.
Week Two: The Blazer and the Common Cold
‘So is Cadence going to Vincent Street next year?’
‘Yes, we enrolled. They’re restoring the old assembly hall.’
‘So they’ll all be at school together then.’
‘Did you get the uniform list?’
‘I did. Now I need to get the name tags done. How many prep classes are there?’
‘Two I think.’
‘I like the summer dress, don’t you?’
‘It’s OK I suppose. How about the blazer though? Why do they have to have that great big blazer?’
‘Yes it’s so expensive.’
‘And thick and heavy.’
‘Good in the winter.’
‘Not as good as a fleece. In my opinion.’
‘It’s traditional. They’ve always had it. I went to Vincent Street. We had the blazer.’
‘Exactly the same thing. I hated it.’
‘Has Peyton got a cold then?’
‘They all have. Mum had it and they all got it.’
‘Nevaeh’s had one all the winter.’
‘Cadence seems to have a permanent sniffle. I don’t know.’
The other mothers and children are wafting in. Snot running out of noses. The paramedic comes, ruffles the edges of the air, leaves his daughter, and goes.
Week Three: The Cake and the Twins
‘Is your mum making the cake for Cadence’s party?’
‘She’s already done it. It’s Elsa. She had to cut the legs off the doll.’
‘Well she would I suppose.’
‘She left them on the table at my place and the cat decided to play with them.’
‘You ought to throw them out.’
‘Oh I will. But everything’s pretty hectic. My sister just had twins. Boy and girl.’
‘God! But she already had twins.’
‘I know. Crazy isn’t it?’
‘What’d she call them this time?’
‘She’s into magic and goddesses and stuff.’
‘So what’d she call them?
‘Jataya and Isis. One’s an Indian eagle man and the other one’s Egyptian. I think. A goddess.’
‘Really pretty. Where’s the party?’
‘Its going to be at Scallywags. Peyton’ll get an invitation. And Cadence. We’re actually sending them in the mail. Old style.’
Other mothers, children, paramedic, coming and going.
Week Four: Costumes and The Matter of the Mosque
‘So did you get the costumes for the concert?’
‘Yes, Peyton’s is a bit big.’
‘I got mum to take it in a bit.’
‘I thought I’d do that too.’
‘Cadence is always looking in the mirror at home, doing the doll dance.’
‘Yes, they love the doll dance.’
‘You live round the corner, don’t you, from the – ah – mosque.’
‘We’ll have to move of course. They park all over the nature strip. Blocking the drive. And those prayer calls all the time. Waking up the children, setting off the dogs.’
‘And the way they treat women.’
‘Well, yes. You only have to watch the news to see what they’re like.’
‘No way they’re getting their hands on our girls.’
Raping, murdering, hacking off heads, guns, those sword things, bombing, looting, executing innocent children. Ours was a peaceful neighbourhood until they got their fucking bloody hands on everything in sight. Terrorists. We have to move. God knows where we’ll go. Moving’s so expensive too. Torture. Raping and murdering and hacking to death.
Mothers, children, paramedic.
Week Five: Nothing Works for Nits
‘I need to warn you, Cadence’s got nits. Everyone at her kinda’s got them. I’ve tried everything.’
‘Only thing that works is using the comb and squashing them with your fingers. I’ve spent hours.’
‘Me too. Hours.’
‘Of course we can’t cut their hair because of ballet, can we.’
‘There’s nothing you can do.
‘I thought maybe hairspray would help.’
‘No, nothing helps.’
Carly and Tara and Kelly are sitting on the floor. They are brushing the children’s hair until it is smooth and can be twisted into a tight, tight bun. Then they wind a filmy net around the bun and jab in several golden pins. Other children drift in. Other mothers. Handsome paramedic and his daughter. Sunlight slants through the slats of the blind, falls on the heads of the children. Glints. Halo. Like a blessing.
(This story will be published in the next issue of ‘Antipodes Journal’, and will also be published in my November 2017 EBOOK collection of eight stories ‘The Dead Aviatrix’.)