But a story is kind of weaving itself into my mind, regardless

Monday 24 September, 2012:

In my room for lunch break are Slade, Zion, Carlos, and Tyler (the new boy).

“Miss, can I kick it with your class next?” asks Slade, who is standing by the window. “Cos I ain’t going to Maori Performing Arts anyway.”

“Nah, I told Matua I’d try get you there.” (this was true, and I had been successful in this aim last week)

“Aw, Miss… but I don’t like going to MPA on Mondays.” He scowls. “It’s cake on Monday.”

“So what are you gonna do, then?” I ask.

He shrugs. “Dunno… . But honest, Miss I ain’t going to class.” He cocks his head at me, hopefully.

“I’ve got my year 11’s,” I say, in a non-committal way.

“I know,” Slade replies, and I can’t help laughing.

“They’re awgud Miss, can I kickit with your class? I’ll just draw…” he pleads.

“Look,” I told him. “I know you aren’t going to MPA. But Miss Kirk’s back today. I don’t want you to get in trouble.” I think about this, and add, “Or me, either.”

“Fuck her,” he replies, mildly.


“You should get us all outa class,” suggests Zion, with the greatest of ease. “I never do anything in Maths.”

“I don’t do anything in English either,” Carlos hastens to add.

“Geez… no, no!” I scold. “Yes you do, you guys. Just get to class.”

The bell is going, and they leave without protest. But Slade remains, for one last crack at it. “Please, Miss?”

I know he won’t make it to MPA, no matter what else happens. My intention wavers… and Slade looks joyful. “Ok,” I tell him. “Go on then, go get a netbook. But if Mrs Kirk comes in, God knows what I’m gonna say to her.”


I sort out 11 Social for a bit, then as I come back past my desk, Slade says, “Hear about Shanice, Miss?”

“Nah, what about her?”

“She got taken away by the cops last night.”

“Aye?” I say. “What for?”

A girl comes up to ask me something, and I see Slade back off a bit. “Um… just stuff,” he says. “Can’t say, in front of these fullas,” he quietly adds

“Ok, tell me later.”

And he nods.


A little bit later, he tells me the story. To be honest, I’m not really listening at first. Cos I’m expecting… what? I dunno; the usual stuff. Disturbing the peace, or possession of cannabis. But a story is kind of weaving itself into my mind, regardless. Something about Shanice’s boyfriend. Some beef with the neighbours… he went round there, took a gun in the car with him. Cops came, he gapped it. Later, Shanice was driving the car, and the cops stopped her. She got mouthy, and they took her to the cells. There was no proof of anything, so they let her go. Meanwhile, their car was smashed up (on the side of the road, by the same neighbours), as retaliation for the visit.


And then Slade says, “They’re overs…”


“That family. They’re overs… they got it coming.”

“What do you mean?” I ask him.

“It’s all planned… for tonight.” He moves closer to my desk and then, urgently: “Miss, you can’t say anything about this… even Shanice doesn’t know.”

“What’s happening tonight?” I say. I feel a strange stirring in my blood which mingles with a tired feeling and makes me kind of float.

“Everyone’s gonna get it. Even the girls.”

“Aye? What you talking about?” I say.

“Shanice’s cousin, and some other people are going over there. To end it.” He shakes his head, and deploys his favourite expression: “Oh well.” He follows this up with, “Well, they started it…”

“And what exactly are they planning to do?”

“Gonna fuck everyone up, it’s all planned. The only ones they’re not touching are the little kids. And this girl who’s in a wheelchair. Everyone else – tough.” He gives me that ‘Oh well’ look again. “They wanna mess with us like this; they gonna get what’s coming.”

“Do you think it’s really going to happen?’

“Yes, it’s all planned. Shanice’s mum set it up. Shanice doesn’t know anything though, I’m the youngest one that knows.”


“Slade?” I ask him. “Are you going with them?”

He nods. “My job’s to watch, outside… and if anyone comes, I have to let let them know. Cops – or anyone else.”

“Watch… with what?”

“With my bat,” he says.

“Fuck,” I say. “Slade; something might happen.”

“It will happen,” he says calmly. “It’s too late now.”

“I mean… something might go wrong, someone might get hurt.”

“Yeah, could do,” he agrees. “But shit happens. I don’t give a fuck – this is family business, this is revenge.”

“Revenge…” I murmur, just thinking this over. And there’s no point saying I don’t get it, cos I kind of do – but I’m scared, all the same. My blood keeps on pounding, and 11 Social are working away on the netbooks, and Slade’s just talking to me in that same, low, urgent voice, and the room and the other voices kind of recede… and we keep discussing it, calmly and quietly.


“I wish you weren’t going,” I tell him.

“Too late now,” he says.

“I know.”

“Miss, you can’t say anything,” he reiterates. “No-one knows, even Zion don’t know. I haven’t told anyone else. I’m not supposed to tell anyone, in case someone says a word here, or a word there. Cos it’s all planned – it’s gonna happen. It’s got to.”

I say, truthfully, “Who would I tell? There’s no-one to tell… it’s not like I could just tell the cops.”

“I don’t trust the cops, Miss. They don’t do shit. We tried to tell them about all this ages ago, but they never do anything about anything.”

I shrug. I don’t know.


Meanwhile, 11 Social are just in the background. I think how I’m a crap teacher, today. Not that the class seem to mind. They’ve all got work to do, and just do it. The usual suspects are quiet as quiet can be. I get the impression that Neon, at least, can sense something’s going on.


I say, “And Shanice’s mum… set it up?”

“Yeah, she’s got all the connections, honest to who. She’s a gang woman from way back.”

“And she wants you to go?”


“But didn’t she say that you had to be good, or else she’s gonna send you back down the line?” (cos Slade’s told me this often enough)

“Yeah,” he explains patiently. “But that’s at school, this is family business.”

“Oh, I see.” Which I do, I guess.


“Slade?” I say, in slight hope, and not in any way accusingly. “Are you just… talking this up a bit. Cos I hope you are.”

“Nah,” he tells me, and shakes his head. “I’m not talking it up.”

“Well, I hope it doesn’t happen… or at least, not that way.”

“I dunno what’s gonna happen, Miss,” he says. “But something gonna happen, one way or another.”

“Are you scared?” I ask him.



“Yup,” he says.

“What time’s this all meant to happen?”

“Late,” he replies. “When everyone’s sleeping.”

And I keep thinking: What am I supposed to do with this? I’m not supposed to do anything. The only reason I’m hearing it is because Slade wants someone to talk to – because it’s hard to not say anything, and for no-one to carry things with you. And I guess I know that feeling, too, in my way.


Marjorie comes in with one of the IT guys, they’re checking the data projectors in the blocks. She’s friendly enough, and says hello to Slade before she leaves – but I’m also aware that Marjorie could easily check whether Slade’s meant to be somewhere else, if she so desires. And she might desire, considering the current situation with the Karys letter. I think to myself: oh well.


Slade tells me, then, about his sister’s ex-boyfriend. “My uncle… I guess, well I call him uncle,” he says. “I think of him as my uncle. He’s the scariest guy I’ve ever met.”

I nod, and Slade continues. “He’s a fuckin scary motherfucker, I used to hang out with him all the time when I was a little kid. He used to take me around with him, to all his robberies and everything. Walk into the dairy, just say to me: Take whatever you want. Lollies, anything. Walk down the aisles grabbing anything I felt like… once he put his gun right up in the man’s face, cos my uncle was fried, frizzled as. The dairy owner, this Asian man, he was just blubbering: Don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me.”


Right in the midst of 11 Social, this tale is being recounted quietly. I have a slight awareness, in my peripheral vision, of Riana, Casey, Alex… the students I’m ostensibly teaching. And Slade keeps on talking. He says, “My uncle used to make me wear the T shirt for the prospects. Wore it every day, just walking round with him…”

“How old were you?”

“Nine, ten…” he says. “I used to go everywhere with him… up North, everywhere… he’s the scariest guy I’ve ever met…” Slade’s voice gets quieter and trancier. “One time I went to his pad up north, his gang pad… and they raped this lady…”

I just look at Slade, and he tells me without affect: “This lady… she was there, and they raped her… she wasn’t even young, she was just this random lady.”

“How did she end up there?” I ask.

“Dunno,” he shrugs. “I think she was just in the wrong place, or something. And they must of picked her up – and everyone raped her. Her face was all smashed up, there was blood all over her face, they kept on punching her, I saw her. My uncle and everyone raped her… I saw her.”

“You were there?”

“I was right there.“ he says. “I was right there.”

“Slade? How old were you?”

“Eleven,” he says. “I was eleven, and my uncle made me promise not to tell anyone. He said, if you tell anyone, I’ll find out… then I’ll kill you.”

“You couldn’t tell anyone,” I repeat, gently stating it.
“I’ve didn’t tell anyone,” he replies. “I’ve never told anyone, ever.”

“You were scared, Slade,” I say, just staying real calm. “Of course you didn’t.”

“I was so scared… I was shitting myself,” he says. “I’ve never been so scared in my life. And my sister – I couldn’t tell my sister. I knew that if I did, he’d find out. But I wanted her to know. I wanted her to get away from him.”

There’s a little pause. I say, “Do you know… what happened to the lady?”

“I don’t know,” he replies. Then he looks at me real serious. He says just softly, and with some dignity, “Miss? I don’t think they could have let her go. I think… I think they killed her.”

“I guess she could be one of those ‘missing persons’,” I say, thinking about it.

“I think she probably is,” Slade says, and I can see he’s gone over all this in his mind a hundred times before. “That’s what I think, too. She’s a missing person. And no-one will ever know what happened to her.”


“My uncle’s in jail now,” Slade tells me. He’s been in and out, in and out, for heaps of stuff. Other stuff.”

“Yup,” I say.

“But I stopped hanging out with him, after that.”

“It must have changed things,” I say.

“It did.”

And he makes a fist with his hand on the desk, and says very quietly, “I hate him. I hated him after that. I still hate him.”


I check the time, and it’s almost 3:10. We’ve been talking quietly, in one spot, for an hour at least, and the class are gonna have to pack up soon. And I feel wired, and at the same time tired, and at the same time as calm as calm can be. I’m aware that sometimes you have to carry something for someone else, even when you don’t know how. Slade’s been doing that for the last five years, and now he’s trying to do it for tonight as well, and so I think maybe he just had to share something, with someone. And so maybe it’s not my business to do anything except listen. It’s not my business to go do anything with it, because I don’t know what it is, or what’s gonna happen, or even if anything’s gonna happen. I don’t know. But my blood’s kind of pushing around in my body, all the same. It’s not a bad feeling, it’s more like that ‘oh well’ of Slade’s.

There’s a lot more said, more than that. But trust goes both ways, of course, and there’s a sense of speaking freely.

When Slade leaves, I just very sincerely tell him to please take care, and that I’m going to be worried about it till I see him tomorrow. Because what else can you say, really? And honestly, what else would I say, and to who? And for what it’s worth, I hope it helped, a little bit.



The people who care about what they’re doing

Wednesday 29 August, 2012:

Fuck school, really. I don’t give a damn about Karys’s year levels assemblies either – if we get snapped, then we get snapped.

But actually, there’s sometimes a kind of protection in not caring either way, which allows one to move about more freely. I think it’s why the most unrepentant waggers go unnoticed for the longest time, when others get picked up straight away.

At staff meeting this morning we’re instructed that there are to be no exemptions from the school assembly. All learners, and all staff timetabled for an option line, are to be there. Everyone is to assemble in their respective houses – under the watchful eye of Deans and DP’s – and from there proceed down to the gym: block by block, and in a formal manner. Karys goes on about it for so long, and is so adamant, that at first I don’t think we have a show. But a chance comment from one teacher (about requesting a pass for some seniors who have to stay back for a tutorial) gives me an idea. If I print a slip for Slade, Zion and Carlos… it might work. Most teachers don’t even look at the passes, when the runners bring them round. It’s a case of: “Have slip, will travel.”

So I spend my morning non-contacts figuring out how to create passes on the database. It takes a while – but eventually I crack it. I print out the slips, which look very official. And technically, they are official, I guess – except that the DP’s didn’t create them, and the runner isn’t going to be distributing them. I’m taking no chances; giving them out myself. On each slip I’ve circled the afternoon period, and written the meeting place and time – in case teachers check.


At the designated time, I see Slade literally scampering towards my door. “Miss!” he gasps, coming to a sudden halt at the foot of the stairs. “Zion’s at the DP’s office, and I think he’s gonna be kicked out of school…”

“Huh? What’s going on?” We shut the door softly behind us.

“Quest’s in Miss Tunbridge’s office – Miss – he must still be in trouble, from last term.”

“We-ell…” I say. “Zion hasn’t been in trouble for ages – and last term’s got nothing to do with it. Mrs Tunbridge knows that.”

Slade looks at me in some relief.

And she knows I’d be on her case straight away, if she tried to kick Zion out for nothing,” I add, making him smile.

I get out my phone. “I’ll text him, and tell him to come over here when he gets out of the DP’s office.”

But at that, Zion arrives. I feel like throwing my arms around him, but manage to restrain myself, saying just, “Zion,” and then, “Is everything ok?”

“Yes Miss it’s allgood. Miss Tunbridge looked at my credits, and she said I was doing good, and she told me to keep staying out of trouble, and then she just let me go.”

We all grin at one another. “See!” I exclaim.


“How many credits have I got, Miss?” Zion asks me next.

I check: “68! Maan, Zion – I’m so proud of you.”

“Have you got 68 credits?” asks Slade, incredulously.

“Yeah, he has – he’s nearly got Level 1 now!” I rejoice. “But maybe you got Level 1 last year, Slade.”

I’m expecting him to say yes, but he shakes his head.

“How many credits have you got?”

“I don’t know,” he says, in kind of a wistful tone.

I look it up.“42 at MC this year,” I tell him. “But you’ll have more than that – from your school down the line.”

“I haven’t, Miss,” Slade says. “I didn’t get any credits last year at my old school.”

“You didn’t get any?” I repeat. Because Slade’s in year 12 – and it’s almost unheard of for year 11’s to get zero credits.

“Nah… I didn’t really do any work last year.”

“Oh,” I say, and then, “Well, you’re doing great this year, then.”

“Am I doing ok?” Slade asks, simply and quite surprised.

“Yup – you are. You’ve passed nearly all the assessments you’ve had so far. That’s really good, Slade.”


He just smiles. But a few minutes later, he says. “If my friends could see me now, they’d be mocking me, saying I’m a little…“ He finishes very ruefully: “A little bitch.”

I laugh, but gently. “Well, that ain’t right,” I said. “You don’t have to be a little bitch to get credits, you know. You can stay exactly who you are, and still do good at school.”

He looks at me, just interestedly.

I say again, “You don’t have to change, Slade – you’re doing fine just the way you are,” and he grins.

It touches my heart, the way it always does when I see them holding on to the thought that they’re as good as anyone; better than most. And my heart is also squeezing up at the thought of Tau, and of how much I want to see him hold on. You know; to life – to everything.


After that, Slade starts to talk about things, quietly, as we paint. The reason why his mum sent him to stay with his aunty, up here. How he was just tagging and slanging, down the line. Not going to school. In trouble all the time. Selling weed, and then (just before he left) dabbling with P as well. When his mum found out, she went mental. Didn’t he care about anyone except himself? He should stop and think: imagine if it was his brother, his sister he was selling to. “She was right,” says Slade. “But I hadn’t thought about it that way. I only thought about how you could make a hundred bucks just from one tiny little bag.” He shakes his head. “And it made me wanna try it,” he says. “I wanted to see what it was like. Cos people say it’s mean as, P…”

“Did you try it?” I ask.

“Nah… I was scared to.”

I remember how Tau once said that to me, too. And I can’t help thinking how my radar just keeps on picking up on the same signals. It’s like I’ve got an unerring compass for this stuff, no matter how protected or concealed. Tau – the politest, quietest boy in my year 9 class, back in 2008. Hardly turned up, hardly said a word, and yet, well – he was the first one who read me right. The humble and inscrutable Kepaoa – he wasn’t much of a one for talking either. Gave next to nothing away. But to me, he always seemed like a coiled spring. And Slade – another quiet one. Doesn’t rep a crew, doesn’t run his mouth.

And today he tells me, “Miss, graffiti saved me. It really did… I think it saved me.”

I nod, and he says. “If I didn’t hang with the people who do graff, I’d still be selling up here. I just try to stick with the people who care about what they’re doing.”

“That’s cool,” I say. “You just keep on doing that, Slade.”


But yeah, today was ok, because I blatantly ignored the stupid rules, and just kicked it with people who I care about; and we painted, and talked about stuff that matters. You know – sometimes I think graffiti saves me, too. And what Slade said, about sticking with the people who care about what they’re doing. Even when I feel like my eyes are just two big lakes about to spill over, half the time. I think sometimes everyone must see that, and I don’t care; I don’t – I don’t care about most of those people. And hopefully the ones that I do care about will kind of understand. Or at least just take it easy.

We try

Monday 30 April 2012:

This morning I’m going out to put my stuff in the car, and the shed door’s been left ajar as I go by. I actually see Tau look through the crack of the door at me, and then kind of skip to one side. I feel sure he wants me to come talk to him. So I just tap and say, “Tau?”

“Hey Miss…” Tau sighs, opening wide the door and looking at me with an expression of patient suffering.

“You ok?”

He nods, but unhappily.

“Do you want a ride to course?” I ask. “Honest, I don’t mind, Tau. I’m not in a hurry.”

“No-oo, I’ll be ok,” he tells me, and he sits down and hunches his shoulders.


I perch on the arm of the sofa and say, “Tau – have you heard from Shay?”

He shakes his head very sorrowfully, telling me, “No. And I went round there last night, and I know she saw me, but she just went into another room – and then her neighbours came outside. And chased me away,” he concludes.

“Well, maybe she’s not ready to see you yet,” I suggest. “She might need some time, you know… and her parents might not want to see you just yet either.”

“But – she’s never done that before!” Tau says, and he sounds so bewildered. I know he knows it’s his own fault, but I also see he’s hurting – and he’s afraid, somehow. At finding himself alone.

“I know,” I say. “I know, but it’s ok, Tau. I’m sure she’ll talk to you when she’s ready.”

“Don’t give a fuck anyway…” he mutters.

“Yes you do,” I say, gently.

He sniffs, and bends his head. His hair springs up from under his cap, and I look tenderly at his large and stoically unhappy bearing.

“Fuck… I don’t care,” Tau tries again, and his head droops, and I just slip next to him and put my arm around him, and he leans into me, giving another sniff.

“It’s ok, Tau… do you want me to message her on facebook, and check she’s ok?”

He nods, saying, “Cos she won’t reply to me – I’ve tried to send her messages, I’ve –“

I tell him. “I’ll find out how she’s going, aye Tau?”

He nods again, and I just stroke his warm, broad back, and we sit like that for a while.


I say, “Man… must have been a pretty big argument you guys had on Friday, for things to be like this.”

“It was fucked up,” admits Tau. “Just over dumb shit, not even that bad, just… it all got fucked up.”

“Yeah, I know,” I say. “But Tau – give it time.”

“Yup,” he says, kind of calmer, at least for now. “Yupp…” And then, “Thanks, Miss.”


Eventually, I just have to go to school. And I hope Tau has a safe day, even if it won’t really be a happy one.


When I get to school, I message Shay.

We exchange messages on and off all day. She’s pitifully glad to hear Tau’s alright; she’s been worried. She keeps saying – thank you for looking after him. My heart goes out to her, but I try to keep it all matter-of-fact. I know she needs some time out, and not to hear about Tau being unhappy. I tell her he’s ok, and to not worry, and to look after herself.

Well – he was ok, this morning. But the day is long, you know.


And Tau’s not there when I get home. I see he’s made himself a feed though; done the dishes. Even just thinking about it now, I feel emotional – knowing he’s so proud and yet he can still do that; still look after himself a little bit.


Tuesday 1 May:

Tau mails and tells me it all ended up bad last night. He got drunk again and smashed up Shay’s mum & dad’s car. Then he went back to Kaiser St. Later, the police came to look for him. Scott and Sheree said he wasn’t there, and the cops went away again.

I have non-contacts this morning, so I text Kepaoa and tell him what’s happening, asking him not to mention it to anyone else.

Nah u nau me ms, nta word ae,’  he texts back, reassuringly. Man dy musta psd hm off?


Thursday 3 May:

I come home and Tau’s been round. He’s taken a shower, made something to eat, washed up everything in the kitchen – and left again. There’s a message on my phone though, to say he hasn’t been going to course. He says he can’t handle sitting in class at the moment and feels like fighting with everyone.


Friday 4 May:

After school, I go round to Kaiser St – Sheree has asked if I could come help sort out some letter Tau’s received about his student allowance.

He looks rough as: my heart almost breaks. And I can tell he isn’t in the mood for talking. But for some inexplicable reason, I can’t stop asking him dumb questions, like: “Have you seen Shay?”

Tau just sits on the edge of the couch, next to the door, and looks straight past me. I automatically turn to one side, kind of protecting myself – my body language is awkward; I feel all elbows – and I want to cry. Of course I know I can’t cry. But my heart is ripped up, seeing his closed, blank, shut-off face. And then I think to myself: Ok, ok – just be practical.

So I say, “Tau?”

He nods.

“Give me that letter – I’ll take a look.”

He shrugs and hands it over.”


I read it: Tau needs to contact Studylink regarding some paperwork. When I broach this subject, he doesn’t hate the idea; I guess he needs to get paid, even if nothing else. So I dial, and of course, immediately get put on hold. I wait. Meanwhile, Tau unscrews the cap of the vodka bottle on the table, and takes a long swig.

My eyes flick up to his. I say, “That what you’re up to tonight?”

He laughs, just a flat ‘hah’. “Been doing that every night,” he says, and his eyes swivel away, and he gulps another mouthful down.

“Yup…” I just about whisper.

I sit on the steps, on hold, waiting for Studylink.


“Come in, Miss!” Sheree insists.

“I’m ok, it’s just… the reception’s a bit better out here,” (and actually, this is true, too).

But she makes room for me on the couch, then curls up beside me. Tau keeps drinking, and within ten minutes he’s on that tipsy buzz, and is chatting and laughing to everyone – but his eyes are still shiny and quiet, and I know he’s keeping everything inside.

Scott lays on the other couch, complaining. “How come I can’t have a drink, when Tau’s allowed a drink?”

“Did I buy you that bottle of alcohol – no!” Sheree scolds Scott.

I think of how Tau once told me he never drinks with his parents anymore; he hates the way they drink. I’m sure that’s changed in the last week, but… what can I say? Nothing to be said. Tau’s been on this week-long bender, and if Scott and Sheree haven’t joined in yet, they soon will. And ohhh, it’s hard to see Tau this way.


Anyway, I try. I talk to the guy at the call centre, and then to the supervisor (after I ask to be put through to someone in charge) – and eventually I get an assurance that they’ll look into it, and get back to me Monday.

I explain all this to Tau – and he nods. So it’s something; better than nothing.

And I feel… that same ache, and that same kind of yearning to just be there with them. Despite everything; despite the fact that Tau’s going down the path to rock-stony-bottom, and his genes say ‘alcoholism’, loud and clear. I think of Tau and Sheree and Scott… as three of the realest people I know. Because they don’t say things are ok when they’re not. And do I? Maybe… I’m not sure.


“Come to dinner, ok?” Sheree says “Roast on Sunday. Should get Tau to cook it!” She snorts, as does her son.

“Yeah, cool,” I say, meaning it – even though I doubt they’ll even remember the invite, come Sunday. “K then – thanks, Sheree.” I cast a glance at Tau’s now anaesthetized, but still unconsoled face. He smiles at me, semi-ok with the afternoon.

And I wish I could… and there would… I don’t know. I sometimes wish I could be headstrong and wild, and not care; not be shamed. Instead I feel like a fake, because I have to pretend to be ok. As if I know what to do, when I don’t.


Anyway, when I leave (to do my shopping; don’t even feel like it), Tau follows me out and we stand on the steps. I say, “Aw, Tau… I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok Miss, allgood,” Tau says.

“Nah, I know you didn’t really wanna talk, today. Sorry for that. I didn’t…” I break off, feeling like I’m gonna sniff and cry. But of course I just rally, and say, “I just… it’s just… cos I care about you.”

“I know,” Tau says, gently. He’s drunk now, or getting that way. In the hour that I’ve been there, he’s polished off almost the whole bottle – but then, Tau can absorb a mighty large quantity of alcohol with remarkable tolerance. Which is, in itself, a scary thought.

I say, “Tau, I’m just… a bit worried about you, that’s all.”

We look at one another, and I add, “Honestly Tau, anything you need, anything at all – just come and go whenever you like. My house is your house… you know that.” And I suddenly remember telling him kind of the same thing once, back when he was in year 10. Something like this: “My room is your room, Tau. We can share it.”

He nods. “I came round today,” he tells me quietly. “I made a feed – I had some chicken.”

“Good, Tau – that’s good,” I say.

And we reach out and hug one another.


When I leave, I only cry a little bit. Because I don’t want to let it swamp me. And I have to get to the supermarket.

Back home, I fix something to eat. I’m trying real hard to not let everything make me so sad. I just think – oh, I might be able to let it go. And I might…  if I can remember that we try, and we’re still trying.


Around 10pm, there’s a text from Elroy:

Hae mis up3?

Nothng just watching TV

Miss ask cluzo f he wantz sum hot bottle.

He’s round at hs parents place. But he dnt need any more alks in my opinion!

Miss i robbd da factry heps 2 go arwnd aha algud mis

Yeh wel i stil thnk tau dnt need any, the way he’s going it wil just get him into trouble.. and as for you just be careful aye. And you need to drink some milo!!

Ahah k miss aha. Do u want a hot bottle?

Doesnt matter wat I wnt, I reply. And there’s some truth in that.

Ahah yea miss ur my idol miss. Ahah hnst.

The hard things

Wednesday 14 March, 2012:

Elroy’s disciplinary meeting this morning: Marjorie, Karys, Chloe, me, Elroy, big sis, mum. Tagging and attendance – but Karys brings up Kepaoa, and the events of yesterday (of course). She’s taking a hardline approach. She speaks very patronisingly to the Alesis. Marjorie is ‘better’, but only in a way: the result is the same. The SLT don’t want Elroy at school. If he doesn’t go quietly, Karys will start up disciplinary proceedings. Ane cries again, and my heart goes out to her. I say I’ll ring Elroy to assist with finding a course, and I will – tomorrow. Today, things feel just too hard.

And school’s hard too, after that. Even Urban Art isn’t as good as usual. It goes alright, it’s never ‘bad’ exactly – I just don’t feel right, that’s all. 9 Social are ok too – I’m ok with that class – but I don’t care about any of the stuff we have to do.


I have a quiet kind of ‘moment’ with Andre in tutor. We’ve put some music on (not at all usual, these days – though it was once an everyday thing) and Andre says, “Hey – we’re listening to music again. We used to do this all the time in tutor, aye.”

“Yeah…” I sigh. “We did.”

“Back when tutor was cool,” Andre continues, nostalgically and without the slightest offence meant (and none taken).

“It was,” I agree.

Andre casts a look around the room. “It’s different now, with all these people. Coming into our tutor; taking it all for granted,” he says, adding a little “Fff…” under his breath.

We – the old guard – regard one another with great understanding. I feel emotional, being with Andre reminds me of the old days; it makes me happy and sad. Because those days are gone.

I just say, quietly and for no reason; for everything… for nothing at all, “Thanks, Andre.”


Later, Riley sees me by the cafe and comes up and grabs my ass in a friendly way – it makes me laugh.  She’s another one who reminds me of the old days, and I feel the same wave of emotion well up in my chest, when she hugs me tight. It was Riley who really helped yesterday, with Kepaoa, I’m sure. I haven’t heard from him since then, but apparently he’s calm now (Elroy tells me so, this morning – and I feel like I’ve let Elroy down as well.)

Damn, be careful what you wish for, I think. I always get more than I can handle. Got what I asked for, got it at what cost? The funny thing is that I can never go back, and it’s ok. Because what was the alternative? The alternative was totally impossible, for me.


In the evening, Kepaoa texts… now he wants to talk about things, saying what a bad buzz he was on yesterday. It’s kind of like a debriefing, after all the dramas. He knows he nearly lost it: Yeah I was hyped az!! Lookd lyk iwas on crak! Dayuhm ha, he writes.

He tells me tonight: he thinks he has to be ‘hit hard’, to learn. As if to say it ain’t hard enough yet; what’s happened so far. I get it… I truly do. But it makes me kind of scared. Both that I get it; I mean I understand how he thinks. And that we know it’s true.


Thursday 15 March:

Things are even more fucked up. Tau’s been busted; court’s on Tuesday.  That old song lyric keeps coming into my mind: Looky now, everything crash. Kepaoa tomorrow; Tau on Tuesday.

Kepaoa’s already hyped – says he don’t care and don’t know if he’s even going to court. Then he asks if I can go with him. So who knows? But all the same, I’ve taken the day off now – just to be on the safe side.

Tau’s calm though, so much so that it makes me feel calm too. His face kind of ‘shining’, because he’s accepted it. The brave, articulate way he begins; just pads over to the table and sits down, and says with no preamble and no dramatics: “Miss, some fucked up shit happened today. I got busted. Possession to supply – I’m going court on Tuesday – ima tell you everything.” And he does: logically, calmly, quietly. Shay’s eyes all puffy, she must have been crying all day.

He talks about Scott as well (and I never say Sheree’s already told me) Explains why he didn’t tell me at the time. And there’s even more to it than Sheree had said. It happened just a couple of days before Christmas. The cops, when they came, knew a lot of things; right down to the container the foils were in, and where it was hidden. And they wanted to speak to Tau – at first they thought Leroi was Tau. They’d heard that Scott was selling for his son, and they knew Tau’s name. Scott denied that, and took responsibility for everything. He got charged with possession to supply; his second court appearance is coming up in a couple weeks – he could go inside.

“I didn’t want you to worry,” Tau says, simply.

“Probably wise,” I tell him. “I would have been so paranoid, if I knew all that.”

He laughs, saying, “Faar, I was paranoid enough myself.”


Ever since then, the police have been watching the house at Kaiser St. Everyone knew, but had kinda gotten used to it, I guess – seeing as nothing more had happened. Then this morning, Tau and Shay went to take a thousand dollars somewhere (I’m not sure where; there’s a couple of safe houses). They also had drugs stashed under the seat of the van. And when they left Scott and Sheree’s, the cops pulled them over – searched the car after just one foil was found in Shay’s bag. Wanted to charge her with all of it; she was crying and crying… “I felt so sorry for Shay,” Tau says, as he tells me all this. He admitted responsibility for everything, and they let her go.

At the police station he was interviewed for hours, and taped. He thinks at one point he might have got his stories mixed up, he’s not sure. They took his phone. The outbox was empty, but the inbox had some texts from people wanting to score, and by now there’ll be more. Tau told the cops he was buying for his own consumption, and then just taking a bit out of each foil to sell and make a little extra cash. Said the grand was Shay’s savings – all the same, they won’t get it back.

Oh, I knew it could happen, and I don’t like seeing Tau go through this. His face so troubled and stoic; Shay’s eyes all red from crying. The lawyer’s been talking home detention, and Tau says to me, “I want to stay here.”

“Me too, Tau,” I say. “You can’t do home detention round at your mum and dad’s – that wouldn’t work out.

For I see that part of the reason Tau can be calm today, is because he’s here – not there.


Sheree and I have this talk, like soul to soul… funny, now I think of it; because it’s before Tau tells me what’s happened.

She comes in for a coffee when I get back from school – it’s still hours before I find out about Tau and the cops. Sheree knows, obviously, but she doesn’t mention it. Yet, maybe… it’s all lying unspoken in the air between us, and somehow we open up to one another. She just listens as I outline the Kepaoa situation (which is uppermost in my mind). “Ohhh!” she says, and then, “Maybe that explains it…”

“Explains what?” I ask.

“Explains… what I’ve always picked up; just something about you, some vibe. When I’ve felt so low,” she tells me. “I’ve always felt like such a low person,” she emphasizes again, moving her hands down to show me. “And I’ve never wanted to meet any of my kids’ teachers, until Tau started talking about you. And then, when I met you… I just couldn’t work it out, what it was. I didn’t know what to make of it, at first – but there was just something that I understood, and I didn’t feel scared of you seeing us.” She continues, “And now I can see that Tau picked it up too, and he knew he could trust you. He must have felt it: kids sense these things. They know when they don’t feel ashamed, like…” She wriggles her fingers in the air, saying, “They just pick it up, somehow. That you’ll help, and you won’t think they’re low… my kids all think they’re so low…”

I want to say, I think I’m low, too – but I can’t.

“That other boy, is he… like that?” Sheree asks. “Does he go through some of the same things, some of the same problems as Tau, or us?”

I nod, but tell her, “It’s funny, cos when I met Kepaoa I never knew any of that. I just knew straight away that I connected with him… kind of like I did with Tau.”

“Yeah, Tau always talked about you,” Sheree says. “And I was like, this is crazy, cos Tau hates school, hates teachers – he always has. And then, when I met you, I could see it – and I felt safe.”

I feel like crying, writing that down. Because I remember thinking that exact same thing too. The first time I met Sheree. The dog barking; rain on the roof… and I felt safe.


Oh, things are very hard just now. But somehow it’s a relief for them to be hard this way. Not just stupid school being hard because I don’t want it. This, I want – or want in a way. Oh, not that I want to see Tau and Kepaoa in trouble like this. But I care about these hard things. That’s all I mean. I care about these hard things, not the things that are hard just because they mean so little and take so much time. These hard things are the things I care about. And so… it hurts, but it’s still a relief. To know that you’re gonna be alright; that these things can happen and won’t break you, the way that meaningless dumb stuff at school can break your soul.


Today in 11 Social, this one table (the group I like the best) are just talking to me. “Miss… what else do you teach?” they ask, and then, “What do you teach for year 12?”

“History,” I tell them.

“And will you teach History next year?” they ask. It touches my heart – the friendly and hopeful way they speak to me.

“Probably,” I say. “If I’m still here next year.”

“But – why wouldn’t you be here next year?” they ask, their little faces looking perturbed.

“I dunno…” I say, just laughing.

But inwardly I think – what’s for me, if I stay? All the hard things I don’t want.


Who I stand with

Wednesday 23 June, 2010:

This morning, as I’m leaving to pick up Tau, Aperamo spots me and says, “Miss! Where are you going?”

“Oh, just… somewhere.”

“Where?” he persists, “Where?”

I laugh. “Do you really wanna know?”

He nods.

“Well – I’m going to pick up Taurangi and take him to his course.”

“Are you? Really? Is he going course now?” asks Aperamo, gobsmacked.

I nod.

“Are you going… to his house?”


“Ohhh…!” he exhales.


Chris sees us talking, and calls, “Miss, where are you off to – are you off to buy me some breakfast?”

“Oh, ha ha,” I say, grinning at him.

“I know – you’re off to buy Taurangi some breakfast!” he says, and looks totally mystified when Aperamo and I burst out laughing. Aperamo just gulps air, inarticulately, at how close to the mark Chris has inadvertently come. And then Chris looks at us and laughs too, not knowing exactly what has caused this hilarity – and though I’m sure Aperamo will fill him in, I can’t wait round to find out.


Then at the start of 11 Social, Chris comes in and sits himself down at my desk.

“Miss -” he begins.

“Hello,” I say, unable not to smile at his amiable and nice face.

“Can I take this class? I mean – can I change into it – what is it?” he enquires, making me laugh.

“It’s year 11 Social,” I tell him.

“Is this what I came to the other day?”


“Oh -” he says, looking around. “This a cool class.”

“It’s alright,“ I tell him. “But why would you wanna change class, anyway?”

“Cos I want to take your class – any of your classes – as long as it’s with you,” he informs me, unselfconsciously.


I’m not sure that Chris has had very many people stand up for him at school, before now.  And to have had no repercussions: no stand-down from the other day – due to ‘conflicting evidence’ – he realises that whatever was said about it, I didn’t disclose anything he told me. Well of course I bloody didn’t – but I think it came as a great surprise to him that when push came to shove, any teacher would back him. Consequently, I have little ‘Chris’ moments every day at present. And every day I just nicely re-direct him to class – because I can’t be in trouble at the moment – and he goes off very good-naturedly.

But today he wants me to look at his timetable online, and tell him where I have year 11’s or 12’s; then he’s crestfallen to discover they clash with things he either has to take (such as Math), or likes (Hospitality – which I encourage him to retain).

“What do you have here?” he asks, pointing to some despised class on his schedule.

“I have nothing there – I have a break.”

Poor Chris – he can’t get his way. I say, “Never mind; next year then,“ and he sighs.

Actually I feel quite tender towards him.


Semi-related to this, is the number of conversations I have today in which people bring up the subject of the kids who don’t go to class. First Sarah Malin raises it; then Chris; then Levi, Riley and Jack; then Noa; and then, after school: La-Verne. All these people – in different ways – refer to the same thing. That there are kids who just don’t attend their timetabled classes, and who need something else.

“Somewhere comfortable…” says Jack. “Just somewhere where the teacher doesn’t ignore you.”

“Somewhere where you can work on stuff,” Riley says. “Where you know the teacher, and they wanna help you.”

“Cos it’s not like you want to just wag and not do work,“ Levi adds. “But you end up wagging – because there’s nowhere to go.”


And over and over again, they say:

“The class where people like us wanna go.”

“Somewhere we can get our stuff done, and finish things off – and get help.”

“Not a waggers class – but kind of – only you wouldn’t be wagging,” explains Riley. She looks at me and asks directly, “Couldn’t you take that class for us, Miss?”

Jack, who’s the nicest boy imaginable, tells me, “Sometimes, in my classes, the teacher doesn’t say a single word to me for the whole time. My English teacher – the only thing she ever says to me is ‘Get on with it,’ and ‘You’ve missed far too much work already.’  She doesn’t help me, she only helps the good kids… the kids who already get it. I haven’t got any credits in English.”

My heart goes out to him – because I know to him it makes no sense, and only makes him feel like truanting even more.


And Inia and Noa: at present it’s one week out of every three on the door; nothing I can do about that. The Deans puzzle over why they’re truant on separate weeks and then suddenly appear together again. I’ll never say – and just pretend to be ignorant when Sarah Malin brings it up at the pastoral meeting, racking her brains. She’s gonna send letters home; fat lot of good that’ll do. So I mention the eviction and stuff that’s not too confidential – at least it gives a bit of an explanation, and takes the pressure off the boys.

And then good old Noa turns up in project, but wanting to go over the Social assessment again. He hasn’t seen school for a week – and it’s due to Vikshal on Thursday. I give him a copy, and a mighty quick going over of it – 10 minutes – but he seems to get it, in essence.

Again, I feel amazed to have earned Noa’s trust, because I’ve never actually taught him in a regular class. He also hands me a beautiful draft from Inia – and all my markers returned into the bargain. These two boys, who are are on 37% and 39% attendance respectively. And I don’t know what to do – about anything. I stand with who I stand with, and somehow they see it.


Oh, it’s something I’ve thought many, many times already: that there’s a group of kids who want almost nothing that school offers. That’s Noa; that’s Inia, I think to myself. It’s Chris; it’s Jack… it’s Riley. And then I think of other names too. Argos, Nio, Alexander, George… but Tau most of all. I think of last year, and of all the wanderers who made it to my door – and how no-one ever snitched.

It’s like an idea that’s being planted in my heart – and I can’t ignore it, I can’t forget it. But I’m scared of it – and the consequences of thinking this way. I remember how much strife I get myself into, all the bloody time. Since the moment I walked out to Argos… since the moment Tau whispered in my ear. Sometimes I get so tired and think I’m gonna let go of the whole world – and yet I can’t forget; can’t forget.

No comfort

Soldiers sometimes return from war to find that normal life has grown stale, and that what they once relied on now provides no consolation. And I know what that means, to have to pass by things that would once have comforted your heart.


Tuesday 24 November, 2009 (contd):

“I don’t wanna come to Social this afternoon,” Tau grumbles. “I’m too tired to do work. And I don’t feel like going to class… I’m hungry.”

“I’ll get you guys something to eat from the cafe.”

I leave the boys in Kuli’s room (with a note, as they’re on their own) and go get them chicken burgers from the cafe. When I return they’ve tidied everything, and packed up my stuff, and cleaned the boards down. They eat their burgers and then offer to carry everything back to the office. “And we’ll come back when the bell rings, and take it over to Social!” Tau volunteers, sounding much happier.

But when we get to the office, and they go in, laden with all my things, Shakira sees them and cries out, “Oh! Those are the two naughty boys I saw earlier, and they were so rude to me!”

They kind of ‘flatten’ immediately, as if attempting to dematerialize, and Tau slinks towards the door like a cat trying to avoid a fight. Leroi hovers for a second, then springs after him and they bolt straight through to the world outside.


Leroi waits for me, and Tau too, but reluctantly.

“You guys… what’s this all about?”

“Nothing, she’s all shit,” says Tau.

“Oh who cares, it doesn’t matter – just say sorry to her if you were rude; she’ll be alright.”

“Ok,” Leroi says, but Tau shakes his head. He’s so proud and won’t bend.

I speak to him quietly, saying “Come on Tau, lets sort this out, okay?”

He nods, but his eyes go to one side, and he looks away defensively, and I pat his arm, saying, “I know, it’s stupid, but just say what she wants to hear, ok?”

“K…“ he mumbles.

“You don’t have to go back in there in front of all the teachers. I’ll tell Miss to come out.”

They nod.

I go get Shakira, but by then Tau’s gone – of course. Leroi stands there bravely and apologizes, and she smiles, mollified.


No Tau, no Leroi to Social. After ten minutes they turn up; Tau looking exceptionally reluctant. He comes in, then ducks into the bathroom. Leroi says he’ll go get him, but then Leroi himself is apprehended by Morris, who sends him off to his rightful class. So Tau arrives back to Social on his own. He sits by Levi and just tags on a piece of paper, throws it at the bin and misses, looks longingly at the door –  then suddenly gets up, opens it decisively, and out he goes.

I see him going up the stairs. He looks back at me, quickens his pace, and heads away out the door at the top of the block.

I feel kind of exposed. Still, I think: just what did I expect? It’s childish of me to want to be Tau’s person this way.

And I know what I have to do – I have to give this whole idea up. I can’t control the sea; it’s gonna leave me torn just to try. I can’t hold on unless I want to be ripped up.


But I long for the time when I didn’t know all of this stuff: before I went over and got Argos that day.

miss that time, I miss it – when I wasn’t sad. When I could enjoy things without thinking that they weren’t quite… didn’t quite make sense. I could – I dunno – I could talk to people. I could go out with my friends.  I could just walk round in the city; I could stay home; I could… bake a cake! And now everything’s smashed and blitzed and I’ll never really be able to do those things again in the same way.

Before, I wasn’t ‘happy’ exactly – but I wasn’t always sad, either. Now I feel like I’ve lost the last little piece of something. And I clutch at something else I still don’t have.

Reined and redirected

Saturday 21 November, 2009:

Imagine if Tau was ten years older and I was ten years younger.

Because in ten years time – where will Tau be? It’s not a foregone conclusion, but all the same: “It’s in the blood,” he once said to me matter of factly, talking about his family.

And me, ten years ago, middle of a crazy world. Making instant noodles and jam sandwiches for the kids while the adults drank themselves into oblivion. Evenings of fear. I didn’t know that one day I’d value it as some kind of strange, scary, training ground.

So if time sped up, slowed down? If our paths had crossed in a different time or place – all hell might break loose. Sometimes I think this precise moment could be where Tau and I are ‘best’ for one another. And if that’s true, then what strange providence pulls people together in a time, a place?

Because in this time and place, there’s the chance of a tide taken at the flood. Something reined and redirected.


Tuesday 24 November:

I’ve booked the library ahead. But I’m in a bad mood because of  teachers just waltzing in first and taking the computers, and making no effort to get their kids off them – the little mouthy year 9 shits that they are – and I have to deal with them. And sometime during all this, Tau arrives to school, turning up at the library and strolling in and out and round about. I have really no time to talk to him, and in the end I decide to get the whole class over to F block. But Tau just keeps looping and strolling, and disappears down the stairs.


Back in F block the kids see (through the window), Tau and Leroi, out by some bushes near the gym. I go out but they just walk away – and I don’t persist. They are seen in exactly the same place ten minutes later, and this time I just leave them to their own devices.

But at interval, they sidle past the office window again and again, looking forlornly in at me, hands cupped to the glass, peering through the blinds. Finally I realize that they aren’t going to leave until I come out, so I do.

“Hey Miss,” they say sheepishly.

“What on earth do you two want – I can’t believe you expect me to come out and talk to you after you keep taking off like that.”

They tell me, earnestly, “We want to know where you’re gonna be next.”

“Cos… we want to come to your class.”

“I’m not supposed to be back at school… I think,” Leroi says. “I can’t remember when Miss Kirk said I was allowed back.”

Tau tells me, “Leroi’s run away from home. He’s been staying up the road in this empty house, we just use it for drinking.”

“Okay,” I say. “Meet me in Mr’s room after break.”


It takes me a little while to get there. Jack’s coming to work with me in Kuli’s room, and I need to get the box of revision stuff.

While I’m doing this, there’s a knock on the office door.  La-Verne goes out, then returns perplexed. “It’s two boys,” she says. “But they just ran off when they saw me.”

“Oh, God,“ I mutter, going out myself. “I’m sure with these two I make up for all the sins I’ve ever committed.”

“Miss… Miss, where were you? We waited in the block.”

“Getting stuff,” I say. “Why did you run away? Miss Poirier was gonna tell you to come in.”

“No she wasn’t.”

“Yes, she was.”

Can we come in and help get your stuff?”

“Yes,” I tell them. “I want you to bring it over for me.”


We go past La-Verne and they giggle. “What’s up?” they snort, and then on the way back through, Tau says, “Sup,” to her again, and they giggle some more.

La-Verne and I roll our eyes, and Tau remarks to me, as we go out, “I hate that white bitch.”

“No you don’t. She’s really nice.”

“No she ain’t,” they both say.

“She is,” I tell them.


We get to Kuli’s room, and Jack’s waiting for me. Kuli has let him in and he’s got his work out ready. When he sees who I’m with, he says, “These two?” in a kind of mystified voice.

“Well, Tau doesn’t go to Science, he’s allowed to come with me instead,” I explain. And this one,” (looking at Leroi), “He’s just… an added bonus.”

The boys snort and laugh at this, and Jack looks at me and grins.


Tau and Leroi say, “Yeah – let’s check out some fights on the laptop.”

“No – no fights. I don’t want any stupid stuff on my logon.”

“Oh Miss… just a little bit?” they plead.

“No, bring up some nice, sweet music.”


I get the laptop plugged in and ready to go, and Leroi, to his credit, jams some reggae.

“Oh, good choice. But not so loud.” And I turn down the speakers. There then begins a little power play to control the volume, which I win, much to Jack’s amusement.


“What’s that word they’re saying, Miss?” asks Leroi, listening to a track. “Is it ‘Irie’?”

“Yup: ‘I’m feeling irie,’” I tell them.

“What’s ‘irie’ – is that stoned?” they ask.

“No. it means when you’re feeling happy, just relaxed, you know”

“Ohh,“ they say, interested. “But it could be when you’re stoned too, aye.”

“It could,” I say. “But it wouldn’t have to be.”


Then, “I’m thirsty…“ whines Tau.

“Ok – I’ll get you a drink in a minute,” I tell him. “I’ve got some over there in the fridge.”

“Have you?” He perks up. “Can I come and get it with you?”

“Yup, in a sec – just let me talk to Jack for a bit.”

“Ok,” he says. “What sort of drink is it, Miss?”

“Is it Coke?” Leroi says, hopefully.

“No, not Coke… some kind of orange thing, I think.”


“No, not Fanta – I can’t remember.”

“Is it a big bottle?” they ask. They’re like little kids, and Jack and me start to laugh.

“Alright, look I’ll go and get it – then you can stop pestering us.”

“Alguds Miss,” says Jack, kindly.


“Can I come?” Tau asks again.

“Ok, come on.”


On the way, Tau just wants to talk and talk about things… all the way there and all the way back he tells me about getting jumped in the weekend; the empty house Leroi’s staying in; and his dad, who’s now out of hospital again. We look at the site of the SSC tag (now painted over), and I tell him about Derek.

“Did he think it was me, Miss?”

“Yes, he did.”

“Ohh… I should replace it with another one!” Tau says.


Back in Kuli’s room, Jack and I start work again, while Tau and Leroi try unsuccessfully to nudge up the volume on Leroi’s iPod (from wherever it came).

Eventually the iPod freezes up, and no amount of trying will get it going again.

“Oh, Miiiiisssss…” Tau wails. “Your laptop broke Leroi’s iPod.” He looks at me sorrowfully, and then says, recovering quickly, “Have you got some paper and a pen?”

I get out some whiteboard markers from my bag.

They exclaim, “Whiteboard markers! Can we do some drawing on the whiteboard?”

“Yes, good idea,” I tell them, and Jack grins at me.

They start tagging, one on the front board and one on the back. Leroi comes over and tags ‘FUCK CLUZO BITCH’ on Tau’s whiteboard. Tau doesn’t notice for a while… then he suddenly spots it, and Jack and I explode with laughter at his outraged reaction.

Jack works steadily through all this semi-chaos. He’s methodical about what he’s doing, and at the same time is amused by the ebb and flow. Every now and then we hear ‘fight’ music start up on the laptop and I pounce and they hoot with laughter at being caught.

Revision’s done by about 12:45; then it’s just me and the two of them again.