writers’ piece

Four writers remember a time they wound up a little off-course.



By James Colley -

It was time to run away from home. I can’t entirely remember why. You know the dramas eight-year-olds have; the poor little darlings feel the weight of the world. If I had my time again, I would have packed a sleeping bag, a map, and perhaps some food. Oh, and I would definitely have worn shoes. But this was a fit of passion and there was simply no time to worry about such frivolous things.

I didn’t have a plan, or even a direction. I did have a vague hope that maybe I’d be raised by wolves from here on out, but I have to admit, there was probably a much greater chance I’d just be eaten by wolves. Either way, that’s a cool result for an eight-year-old.

It was bindi season, and in my shoeless state the footpaths were out of the question. Walking on the road was far too dangerous. I may have been a cowboy drifter facing the bad old world with nothing but a six-shooter of Pez, but I was no fool. Instead, I decided to walk along the ledge of the gutter. Having to carefully place one foot in front of the other significan­tly slowed my progress.

I was badly sunburnt and only made it a few houses down the street when I saw my childhood enemy coming the other way. I can’t remember why he was my enemy, but I hate him to this day. He was being driven home by his mum, which is so typical of him. He could see the roguish look in my eye and knew I was free. I could sense his jealousy. Admittedly, I probably should have been focusing more on the precarious ledge I was walking along. Instead, I tripped and fell on the road while my enemy laughed a laugh I can still hear.

Bleeding, hungry and cold (I forgot my jacket), I continued on through the streets. I didn’t know where I was headed, but what did it matter? I was destined to wander forever. I stopped at each street corner and rocked to my left and to my right. Whichever way felt more comfortabl­e was the way I’d turn. Considerin­g my right foot was pretty badly cut up at that stage, I ended up taking quite a few left turns and wound up in a part of town I’d never been to before.

My stomach rumbled, my foot stung. The streets all looked the same. It would soon be nightfall. ‘Soon’ meaning in four hours or so, but still, the clock was ticking and I was a little scared of the dark. I couldn’t help but wonder if life on the lam wasn’t for me. My point had been proven anyway, hadn’t it? I can’t remember what my point was, but neverthele­ss, I had come far enough.

Yes, it was time to return home, wherever that might be. But I needed a memento to mark my independen­ce day. And like a desert gifts an oasis to the weary traveller, the suburban streets gifted me what my heart most desired: a Christmas warehouse. It promised “All Christmas Decoration­s, All Year Round” – or at least, the four months that the business remained viable.

I wandered the store alone, thinking, “This is what freedom feels like.” It’s Christmas every day. I touched everything and no one could stop me. There were no parents, and the teenager forced to work in a Christmas warehouse was far too depressed to care. I picked out a small tree decoration – a glittery little guitar, perfect for someone as rock ‘n’ roll as me. I turned the plastic-wrapped packet over. Ten dollars. The two gold coins in my pocket wouldn’t cover it. I put it back. I didn’t need material goods. I’d proven my point. I’d found myself.

Somehow, I found my way home. No one had noticed I’d left.

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