All the cat-rearing guides warn against relocating a feline. There’s the matter of getting them in a carry cage, and their sense of space, they say, is also fragile. The first couple of times we heeded the cautions and introduced one new smell and landscape at a time. This is the scratching pole, look how big your backyard is, frogs are friends not food.
Eventually we just packed them up like we did our lives, and plonked them in the spaces between boxes. They all learned to adapt, and so did we.
We use houses with half-unpacked rooms and pets with upset stomachs as a standard measurement of time. Instead of trying to recall a year, I’ll ask my sister, “where were we then?” She’ll say, “the granny flat in the bush,” and a vague image of rusted sliding doors with a middle-class family on the other side comes to mind.
Some places were just for biding our time: the low-lying house at Barellan Point or the flea-infested house our animals told us was haunted by barking and mewling at a single spot on the wall.
Others were attempts at new lives.
There was a tank of molasses somewhere on the vast property and the horses would bay for its sticky blood as soon as my dad turned the tap. We’d wear jeans and wide-brimmed hats to go riding.
It has been many years since we were last there, but the smell of burning flesh on branding day never goes away.
The Salty House
Living in a beachside town sounds idyllic, but never is. Everything was broken; pipes and fittings rusted from the air. Even the flyscreen tasted like salt from the ocean.
Stop licking that, it’s dirty.
The cracked bar of soap with a single pube left in the outside shower by the previous tenants was probably the final straw. We left in a hurry.
Five Acres at Cooran
We went further out, where it was more dusty than salty.
We made tentative friends at the local school, which ran on tank water and had only a handful of buildings. A man came over one day and Mum said they were getting married. My sister was unimpressed, but even she was ready for something better.
‘Maybe we’ll move to England, or I’ll teach in Western Australia,’ Mum said.
The Corner Block
Mum and the man built a house together in a new estate on the Sunshine Coast where a school was opening and fresh beginnings were promised. We had a monstrous brick fence constructed around ourselves for privacy but you could still see into our courtyard from a certain spot on the bike path across the road.
When they put the house up for sale, the local newspaper came by to take pictures for an advertorial. They loved the beach themed light switch covers and the toilet seats with shells and sand trapped inside the plastic.
Mt Mort Road
Two moves later, we shipped out to a one-pub town where the biggest traffic jams were caused by stray chickens. We bolstered our menagerie with cows and a special breed of dreadlocked alpacas, and fostered an understanding with the local cockatoo community.
I didn’t hate it there until my sister left to go to university, and her tiny, expensive apartment became my new dream home.
The Orange Breakfast Table
After overstaying my welcome in my sister’s Bulimba Queenslander, I found my first ‘real’ place. Real because I was on the lease and the gas bills were addressed to me, not because it was any kind of proper residence. There were water stains on the ceiling, rotting seals in the shower and walls thin enough to hear our neighbour’s microwave door pop open at seven every night.
I’ve moved three times since then. My sister’s gone to Melbourne and Mum moves so often I don’t bother to keep updated on each change of address. I’ve just signed on for another lease, so for now I’m home — for the next six months at least.
Marigold Jones is a Brisbane writer with a penchant for animals. She is 25 and does not like sleeping in the dark.
Simon Cottee is an animator and film maker moving to Montreal. Here is a comic about it: www.simoncomic.com.