When I was a kid, my father used to take me hunting. He would wake me up when it was dark, make toast in the dim light quietly (always saying "Don't wake your mother" while I blinked and nodded and yawned) and pass me slices swimming in melted yellow butter and stained with dark blotches of vegemite.
To go hunting, however, we would have to leave the grey happiness of Sydney, which we did, at least once a year. It was always such a change to find yourself in dirty and empty bushland and driving through (or towards) mountains. There would always be a stop at a little pie shop along the way, and bad country music. It never occurred to me at the time, but there was something odd about a family driving those empty roads, windows down, cigarettes and candy everywhere, the tape deck switching from Slim Dusty to Johnny Cash, and four or six rifles next to a case full of ammunition in the boot of the car. Once we arrived at his friends, the next morning we would be up, walking through wet grass and and slick stones the ground had grown over, trying to find a rabbit or kangaroo or anything, really, to shoot. To kill. To blow the fuck out of. If we couldn't find anything alive, we'd shoot trees and cans and, if the adults were feeling particularly funny, the hats they were wearing.
Such are the things white working class families do for holidays.
Since the day I was born, my dad was missing his left kneecap.
It was really quite the odd thing: a flatness in the middle of the leg, almost like a depression as the skin was sucked in between the joints, puckered and scarred. I'd wonder, when I was young, how he bent his leg. The kneecap did that, naturally. It's function was to bend the knee. I understood the human body and that was the kneecap function. So how'd dad manage to bend his knee then, without that piece? It fascinated me, and whenever he wore shorts, I'd find myself staring at it, waiting for a moment when he wasn't looking to poke at the scarred brown skin. I'd never get close. Dad had a sixth sense about that knee, and even if he was in the middle of digging tobacco out of a pouch to roll a cigarette, he'd know that I was closing in, and say in that parental control voice, "Don't."
I suppose not having a kneecap must have been quite inconvenient, but the only example of this I saw was that dad never went to the cinema. In the school holidays when we weren't shooting the shit out of the countryside, the cinema trips were always handled by mum alone. Sitting in those seats pissed him off, she said, and so did kids flicks, he said, so there was nothing for him there. I figured the truth was that, once we were gone, dad pulled out his kneecap, all polished a shiny bone white, and stared at it during the time, lamenting its loss, before he pulled out his pocketknife, cut open his skin, and slipped the bone back in. Then, for a couple of hours, he would dance with two kneecaps.
(Thirty Questions. Well, more like thirty little things now. We're counting down to number one. If you've got a word or anything you'd like to leave, feel free. You know, this is at least keeping me amused.)