Sport 10: Autumn 1993
'Why don't you get a job until school starts. You'll meet people,' her mother had said. And Sandra, reeling with jetlag, homesickness and fear, had walked numbly into the nearest factory.
She sat on a tall stool at a bench. On her left was an enormous sack of red plastic things like coathangers. In front of her a tangle of white cotton tapes. And on her left a growing pile of the red things with the white tapes looped through each end. She did hundreds, maybe thousands a day. Nobody bothered her. Her boss was a smiling man with a bad leg and more on his mind than the red things. Now and then he'd duck in and grin. And that was all. She never met anyone. And at tea time—she would never be able to call it smoko—she sat in silence so her accent wouldn't give her away.
One day a boy came into the room. He had the twinkliest blue eyes she had ever seen.
'You're a Porn, eh?' He sucked on his unfiltered cigarette and grinned.
Sandra blushed—'Yes'—and kept tying the tapes on the red things.
'D'you know what those are?' His voice rose up at the end as if he was going to burst into song.
Sandra blushed harder and hoped he would think it a reflection from the heap of red plastic.
He inhaled greedily and leaned closer. 'But d'you know what they're for?'
'Not really,' mumbled Sandra, fumbling with the tape.
The boy sprang away, delighted. 'Hey, Bluey'—that was her boss—'tell her what they're for, these Saveyous.'
Bluey's amiable worried face appeared at the door. 'Leave her alone, Gary. She's a nice girl.'
Sandra was gratified, embarrassed and confused. Gary grinned and disappeared. She was uncomfortable with the red things now. They taunted her. She wished she'd gone to work in a shop.page 126
Two days later, Gary returned. 'Gidday,' he said. His eyes dazzled her. 'Ever seen a New Zealand weta?'
'No,' said Sandra, sounding interested and intelligent.
Gary came closer and opened his hand. It crouched on his palm. She gasped and lurched backwards. An avalanche of red things hit the floor.
'Now what did I tell you?' said Bluey, limping in at speed. 'Leave her alone.'
Sandra wanted to cry. Gary was putting the thing out of the window but she would never be rid of the sight of it, there in his hand. Or the stupid feeling that she had brought it on herself.
'Don't worry, girlie,' said Bluey, as they stuffed the red things into a sack.
'He's a dag, Gary. No harm in him.' And he limped off.
'Doing anything Saturday night?' said Gary, lighting another cigarette. And that was it. They'd been going out ever since.