The driver of the 224 bus honked at the kid loitering across the street from the shopping centre. The boy stopped and gave him the finger, so the driver gunned the bus, which roared forward causing the kid to race for the pavement. He turned around and grinned and waved at the laughing driver.
This is Elizabeth, where the shopping trolleys roam kilometres from their supermarket as a communal resource. Polite people dump their TVs on the footpath in a supermarket trolley ready to wheel away. Two kids came down our street last week, the big kid carrying a single mattress on a supermarket trolley, and a little kid clinging behind a careering trolley carrying both a double and single mattress. If your old pram gives out, borrow a trolley to deliver the junk mail.
Elizabeth is families kicking a footy up down the bitumen while the adults share the communal bottle of Vermouth sitting on the footpath. Elizabeth is good neighbours like Shiji and Bijil, Brian and Glad, Corey and Marie. Elizabeth is Jordan and Charlotte without a backyard, who played in the street as naked toddlers, and use our cement driveway for their razor scooters. And Dougie, motoring past in his electric wheel chair, helmet-clad to ward off the magpies each spring.
The streets can be violent; people fight outside, and the police are frequent visitors. We have street cred because a SAPOL friend sometimes used to drop in for coffee. It didn't hurt that a cop bought me home once, bandaged and bloody. I didn't tell anyone I'd been hit by a car.
This is home: illegal fireworks most Saturday nights are complemented by a mad bomber who periodically lets off high explosive that is heard across suburbs. My theory is he does it to bait the police; we live only a street away from the area command. I never did work out which resident kept using the .22 rifle, but eventually they left— or were caught.
We have the lowest average annual income for a council area in South Australia. It shows. Morbid obesity is a plague, and yet I've never seen so many people thin from malnourishment. Or seen so many people in wheelchairs. It's where you come when you are poor.
But life is raw, rich, and real: where a supermarket has a drop-dead- gorgeous hijab wearing Muslim woman to welcome people into the store; she alternates with a Bollywood-handsome Indian kid, but the checkout chick spoils it by rousting at a woman newly arrived from Africa, who doesn't understand about the limit of 12 items in the express lane. If you're anglo you can crib an item or two.
There are three doors in a row at our normal entry into the shopping centre; Coles, the Chemist, and the Methadone door. Cash Converters is across the street on the way to the railway station and McDonald's, where the crows have developed a catholic taste in junk food, and are surprisingly dextrous at unwrapping scrunched up half eaten hamburgers. The drive-through is rarely empty.
The trains are full in the morning and late afternoon. iPods, 'Pads and mobile phones almost outnumber the commuters. In the middle of the day, the old, the lame, and the strange appear, walking the edge of the platform searching for cigarette butts, jumping down onto the tracks to drain abandoned cans of Mother— may be a half empty West End, if you're lucky— or slowly wheeling their way down to CentreLink.
The cops frisk people over at Cashies pawn door, but are decent enough for one of them to jog across to the bus interchange, and ask the driver to wait for the bloke they are questioning. Occasionally you see three or four meeting a train.
One night in the police station a bloke and his missus were complaining they'd had their house trashed by his ex. The young officer made careful notes— everything was smashed— asking how they knew who was the culprit, but not sure what could be done without evidence. He cried out in tears, "For God's sake! If she feels like it, she tells you I'm touching the kids and you bastards are around at our place in a minute. But when she destroys everything we have, you can't do anything." The place froze, waiting, and the young woman replied, "Yes sir. It's just not fair, is it?"
Yet it's a safe place. We walk the dog all hours, young women walk home in the dark, people stop and talk across the fences— especially the dog walkers, and you hear children talking their way up the street late at night, after a session at the skate park. Then, if the wind is in the West, the Edinburgh Orion's roar through their nightly engine tests, an air ambulance, or maybe the police chopper goes overhead, and everything stops— barring a bomb or two— by 2am. At five the highway starts up, and Elizabeth begins all over again.
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