Blackburn, Melbourne, circa 1990
I was awoken from a deep afternoon nap by the ringing telephone beside my bed. My wife didn’t seem to be going to answer it, so I reluctantly shook myself awake and picked up the receiver.
“Hello”, I croaked.
“Is that John Tait?”
“Yes”, I said still struggling to get my vocal chords to work properly.
“Oh, it’s Anne here John. I have something terrible to tell you…Kevin was killed this morning on his way to work…His motorbike skidded on tram tracks and a truck ran over him… I’m so sorry.”
Poor Anne. Like me, she was a close friend of Kevin. What a daunting task had fallen on her to relay this devastating news.
“OK thanks Anne.”
Looking back I can’t believe this was the extent of my response. I had just received news that my best friend had died a pretty horrible death, and all I could say was, “OK, thanks Anne.”
Kevin was a lovely guy. He was like a huge bear – big, bearded and great with a bear-hug. He cut a hole in a blanket and used to wear it around as a poncho. It looked ridiculous but he thought it was great. At all our 21st birthday parties he and his poncho stood out on the dance floor. He truly cared about people, especially the outcast. He had just launched into a career of youth work. Now he was dead before he had turned thirty.
I walked around the house looking for my wife to tell her the awful news.
Our four year marriage was in trouble. We’d been seeing a counsellor but I suspected this one had already concluded that we were doomed. I had been called in a few weeks previously for a session by myself. The counsellor wanted to talk to me about my support network. Since moving across town I had lost touch with all my old friends. I was set some homework – to make contact with someone whom I hadn’t seen for a while. I chose to ring Kevin.
“Hi Kev”, I said when he answered the phone, “It’s John here.”
“Ah John, what’s up?”
“Nothing really, I just thought I’d call you for no reason whatsoever.”
We had a terrific chat for a good hour about this, that and everything. Mission accomplished. I felt pretty pleased with myself. It turns out that that was the last time I ever spoke to him.
A few days after his funeral I came home from work early, due to a significant gap between parent-teacher interviews. I walked into the house and closed the door behind me. The sound of the door closing echoed throughout the house. That was odd. I’ve never noticed that before. As I walked through each room I could see why. Pretty much every stick of furniture was gone, as were the blinds, the floor rugs…In a clandestine operation my wife had left me and took everything but my beloved stereo system in the lounge room (including 500 or so records and a CD collection that was rapidly catching up) and, in the spare room, a single bed.
Then I heard a scratching sound on the bare floorboards. My two ruby coloured King Charles spaniels, Hesi Tait and Ajja Tait, came racing up the hallway. Clearly I had custody.
A few weeks later I was again woken from a deep sleep. This time it was in the middle of the night, 3am in fact as I glanced in a panic at my digital clock. Music was booming from my lounge room.
WELL IT’S A MARVELLOUS NIGHT FOR A MOONDANCE.
Someone is in my house playing Van Morrison! Hesi Tait was asleep on my pillow. I jumped out of my single bed, picked up Hesi and held him under my arm like a weapon.
WITH THE STARS UP ABOVE IN YOUR EYES.
I slowly walked towards the lounge room flicking on lights as I went.
A FANTABULOUS NIGHT TO MAKE ROMANCE ‘NEATH THE COVER OF OCTOBER SKIES.
I reached the stereo and ejected the CD. Track 3, Moondance.
I’m not sure what I would have done had I actually encountered an intruder… thrown the dog at him? Hesi and I went back to bed. My scientific mind wrote it off as a power surge.
That week-end I dropped in to see Kevin’s partner to see how she was going.
“Have any odd things happened to you?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Some strange things have been occurring here. For instance, there is a painting that Kevin hated. It doesn’t matter where I hang it, it keeps falling off the wall.”
“Ah, I see.” I took a deep breath. “As a matter of fact, I think Kev might have paid me a visit too.”