My sister and me were left to our own devices in the holidays while mum kept up her jobs. We joined a kid’s program held each morning in a church hall around the corner in Adelaide Road. Run by Brethren people, we did fun games, crafts, and heard stories about Jesus from the bible. But the best bit was enjoying yummy morning teas.
Each morning kids were challenged to recite the Bible verses from yesterday. All the good memories earning special prizes. On our very last day we all recited a prayer asking Jesus to look after us and come and live in our heart. I really never could figure out just how he would do that.
In the New year, my last at intermediate, my new teacher was Mr Randall, a small built, quiet mannered man. Looking back now, he must have had extraordinary patience and kindness, when putting up with me disturbing his class. I was turning into the biggest attention seeking kid any teacher could have, trying to be the class clown and get laughs, I kept calling out during lessons.
When one classmate brought a camera to school, ever out to get more than my five minutes of fame, I agreed to him taking a photo of me posed in the rubbish drum, incinerator, behind our prefab. The cries of disgust from the other kids, gave me great enjoyment and only encouraged me to keep up my showing off. One wag with a sense of humor noticed a connection with my surname and dubbed me, ‘Fiery Furniss’ in the Fiery Furnace.’
Walking home after school, I stopped outside the corner Butcher’s shop to look at the rows of long, rabbit bodies, all laid out on display in the window. They got me thinking of mum’s delicious rabbit stew. When another group of kids also headed home, stopped on the footpath beside me, surrounding a ‘Sally Army’ boy I joined them singing in unison, ‘Sally Army are all gone balmy’.
To tease him, we kept on repeating it over until for no reason at all, I took it to a whole new level giving him a whack with my leather school satchel. Egged on by the big cheer, I got, the next swing I gave him a huge crack on the side of his face. As his cheek turned bright red, I was shocked and suddenly felt very sorry inside. As we all took off running, I couldn’t think why I had been so mean.
At break time, later in the week, the Headmaster sent for me to come to his office, I got scared stiff, thinking he must have heard about the Sally Army kid. Adding to my worry, when I arrived, not only the headmaster, but my teacher, and another teacher were there. They began questioning me, about how come, I had gotten bruises on my arms.
Knowing mum really would have my guts for garters, if I was stupid enough to tell them, that when she got grumpy from all her jobs, she gave me whacks for doing dumb things. The day before, she had chased me around the flat with the carving knife, yelling, I was a ‘stupid bitch’ and she was going to kill me.
Nana always told us,
‘what goes on in the family should stay in the family,’
it was no one elses business.
When mum really went off her rocker, I retreated to my secret hidey-hole, out of the way until she calmed down. I climbed into a wooden crate inside the firewood storage space at our backdoor. This was a hole built into the wall, where no-one ever figured out where I was. It was a tight fit to wriggle myself in and I had to sit with my knees pulled up under my chin, but, I could take off my poker face and have a cry when I was sad. I would also remind God he was meant to be sending our father back to us.