Saturday 6 June 2020

'Stakeout' by Ian Harrison

The phone app indicates he’s near – around the corner, heading towards us. I wait for a ute to reverse out, then tuck my car into his now-available spot, in front of a convenience store. Youthful tattooed, pierced, and bearded tradies in high-vis duck in and out for breakfast pies, chocolate bars, cigarettes and energy drinks.

“Right.” I turn my body to look them in the eyes – ballerina, ninja turtle, and Batman. “I need three trainee detectives.”

They fought all the way here – Donna, my ballerina, squeezed between the booster and the baby seat, but this breaks the spell. They’re actors, each awaiting nomination. I’m afraid my parenting skills won’t adapt to the next mutation, once they outgrow mummy-time.

I turn back, facing front again, hoping I sound spontaneous. “Let’s play something. I-spy.”

The boys cheer, but Donna groans.

“It’s the best game for new detectives to practise with,” I improvise, shooting her a look in the rear-vision mirror. “Like Nancy Drew. I’ll start. I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with ‘D’.”

“Donna,” she deadpans, her fathers’ steel-grey eyes unblinking.


“Donatello,” she quips, not missing a second.

“Ollie’s mask is blue, not purple,” says Batman. “That means he’s Leonardo, dummy.”

“Dummy,” repeats Leonardo, his own one dangling from the harness clip.

“No, no! We do not call one another names.” Bloody kids. “I’ll give you a hint. Something outside the car. Starting with…”

“I know!” says Batman, pointing, jabbing smudges on the window. “Look, a sausage-dog. Dasher.”

“You mean dachshund,” says Prima-Donna, witheringly.

“Or a dog,” counters Batman. “Any dog. Is it a dog?”

“It’s neither of them. None of them.”

“Damnation?” A little voice joins in.


“Cruella and the spotty damnations?” Ollie’s remembered another breed.

“No, not a dalmatian, Ollie. These are all good guesses though. Think. Something beginning with ‘D’. Duh.”

Donna cranes past Ollie’s seat to get a better view. Batman squints through fog on the opposite side, fingers curled into binoculars against the glass to keep the non-existent glare out. I could just eat my children sometimes.

Our new neighbour, Jean, walks around the corner, dressed for the beach. She laughs with a man who isn’t her husband and isn’t at work. I start the car, to the kids’ renewed protests.

I’ve spied enough.

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