Taint the Innocent
short story winner

A SHORT STORY BY ADELE ANDERSON

WINNER OF THE 2021 WRITERS COLLEGE CREATIVE WRITER OF THE YEAR AWARD

After the house came the double garage and the toys. The grey Skyline was the largest on the market, with two tilt doors, a side door, and three sets of narrow windows. A ‘48 Ford and ‘52 Chevy crouched down low, staring with round eyes at a workbench of welded steel tubes and thick planks. Above was a selection of saws, spanners, hammers, and screwdrivers, their shapes outlined in black vivid.

The old man ran his hand over the emerald-green fender and his eyes gleamed. “OK boy. Go push that toolbox over here and find me a half-inch ring spanner.” His fingers twitched. “Time to get this carbie on.”

He popped the bonnet on the Chevy and peered into the motor. We had steam-blasted, restored, and painstakingly sprayed each component blue before dropping it in last weekend. I dragged the tool trolley between the Chevy and Ford. The spanners were on the second shelf, laid out smallest to largest. I found the half inch and placed it in the shallow channel above the grill.

“Grab the workman’s light and shine it over here,” the old man instructed, pointing to the manifold.

He slotted the carburettor in place and twisted each bolt until the thread caught, then used the half inch to tighten them down to the metal.

 “You still want to be a helicopter pilot, boy?” He twisted to stare at me.

“Yeah, Dad … or a fireman.” I paused, my face shadowed by the light. “Depends on how I go at school.”

 “Well, you have to work hard at that one boy,” he said with a sharp look and stood up, stretching his back. “Just make sure you do your homework and listen to the teachers.”

I squirmed and looked down at the oil-stained concrete. “Always Dad, always,” I lied. Big on talk, short on action ‒ that was me.

“Hello. Anyone there?” a voice called from outside.

“Yeah, we’re in here mate,” my father yelled.

A teenager in work boots, jeans, and a faded burgundy singlet appeared in the doorway ‒my mother’s whangai brother. Mumma always said that Ron saved her life, giving her another bubba to bring up as her kids left Taumatamakuku Settlement for the bright lights of Auckland.

“Hey Jake. How’re you, Bully?” Ron checked the motor out before shaking the old man’s hand. “That beast is comin’ on.”

“Yup. Should be on the road soon.” Dad turned to me. “You got your gears ready, boy?”

“Yeah. They’re in my room.”

“Come here and give me a kiss.” I hugged him around the waist, feeling the thick muscle beneath the blubber. He leant down, kissed my forehead, then ruffled his hand through my hair. “You behave yourself for Ron and Barbs, you hear. Make sure you clear the table and don’t be a nuisance.”

Ron pulled out the choke on his Mark I Zephyr, stomped three times on the gas pedal and turned the key. The motor whined, then fired to life. He pumped the accelerator until the car idled by itself and crunched the gearstick into reverse. The wheels spun on the loose gravel.

“Oops,” he grinned. “I better cut that out. Your old man will come out and kick my ass.” I laughed. He looked at me out of the corner of his eye as we drove up the driveway. “We just gotta go round and see a friend first before we head home.”

“Yeah, that’s all right,” I said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

We turned into St George, then took a right at Station Road. Papatoetoe became Mangere. The houses got shabbier, lawns longer, and car wrecks and abandoned supermarket trolleys littered front lawns. Ron stopped halfway down Portage Road, outside a brick house with a faded picket fence. A skinny pakeha woman waved and teetered over in skyscraper heels. Her black leather skirt barely covered her crotch.

“Bully, you want to jump in the back.”

“Ho. Who’s that, Sheila?”

“That’s Monica, my special friend.” He smirked.

I looked at the woman, tits busting out her half-zipped leather jacket and make-up so thick you could peel it off in strips. My gut felt squirmy. I remembered when Ron and Barbs tied the knot at the registry office six months ago, just before Tammy popped out.

“I was here first. Why can’t she get in the back?”

“C’mon Bully,” Ron growled. “Don’t be a sissy.”

I rolled my eyes and climbed out. A cloud of perfume hit me in the face.

“Hello.” Monica’s voice was deep and husky, the opposite of Barbs’ bright chirp. “Who are you?”

“Why? Who are you?” I bridled.

She squeezed past and poked her head through the passenger door. Her skirt rode up her ass, flaunting her thighs. “Whatcha doing bringing a kid along? I thought we were going to have some fun.”

“It’s all good, Monnie,” Ron placated. “I just needed an excuse to get out of the house.” He leaned over the bench seat and yelled, “Hurry up, Bully.”

I hopped in the back, slamming the door behind me. Monica folded her heels and leathers in, then reached across and kissed Ron on the lips. I thought of Barbs at their flat ‒ wiping Tammy’s shitty bum, washing nappies, and cooking us a kai ‒ and glared at her curtain of straight, black hair. She should be out of the car on her ass.

“Got a light?” Monica sat back and pulled a pack of cigarettes from her jacket.

“Yeah. There’s some matches in the glove box,” Ron said.

She rummaged through Ron’s crap, lit the ciggie, and took a slow drag. A curl of smoke rose into the air. She unwound the window, puffing a cloud into the autumn chill.

“Who’s the kid?”

“That’s my nephew.” Ron’s eyes bored into me. “But he won’t say anything about us. Right Bully.”

What the fuck. I looked at him under my eyelids.  “Yeah, I won’t say nothing.”

Monica smiled, her lips riding up over her gums. “Well, hello Bully.”

“Yeah, whatever,” I muttered.

“Don’t mind him,” Ron said. “He’s just sulky ‘cos I kicked her into the back.”

I scowled and slouched down in the seat. Although nine years older, Ron was a good mate. We would talk bloke stuff, like cars, trucks, and chicks. “You had a root yet, boy?” he would say, or “You got yourself a girlfriend?” and I would reply, “Oooo yuck,” but secretly wish I had his way with the ladies. He took me to Pengellys, and I helped load his truck, ate pies and coke, and lit his ciggies while he drove. His Pall Mall Extra Milds never made me cough, not like Uncle John’s Park Drive roll-your-owns, or Uncle Tom’s Port Royals.

There was a lot of whispering and touching going on in the front, and every now and then Monica giggled, like Ron had said something outrageous. Dusk fell. The streetlights flickered on, a beam falling upon the fluffy dice beneath the rear vision mirror.

“Let’s get outta here,” Ron said. He coaxed the motor to life while Monica touched up her face in a small powder compact mirror.

We drove down Buckland Road, around the back of Mangere Shopping Centre. The large carpark was empty. Tall lampposts lit the buildings clustered in the centre, their fingers stretching out to touch the white ribs painted on the tarseal. Ron backed into the far corner, where branches hung low and blocked out the light.

“Bully, you come sit in the front, ay.  Me and Monica are going to jump in the back.”

“What for?”

“We’re just going to talk.”

“You can talk where you are.” I folded my arms and dropped my bottom lip.

His eyes narrowed into slits. He got out, opened the back door, and squatted down. “Get a move on Bully. Don’t be a hoha.”

“You’re the hoha. Bar…”

“Shut it,” Ron growled and drew his finger across his lips like a zip. “Or you won’t come out with me again.”

I glowered and hopped out of the car, sliding behind the steering wheel. I could see their heads pressed up against each other in the rear vision mirror, their words hushed and secretive. Talking about chicks was one thing, but going behind Barbs’ back made me feel dirty, like splatters of mud on freshly washed laundry. I wound down the window, letting in a soft breeze. Leaves rustled overhead, and a couple of birds gave a late-night chirp. I pumped the gas pedal, grabbed the steering wheel with one hand, the gearstick with the other, and pretended to drive: shoulders hunched, lips pursed in concentration, my body leaning into the corners.

Monica tittered behind me. I heard the soft smack of kissing and adjusted the mirror. Thick lips sucked on my uncle’s neck; his hand squeezed her boob, the pale flesh spilling between his fingers.

“Hey, Bully.” Ron’s eyes met mine in the mirror. “Keep an eye on those shops over there, will you, and let me know if anyone comes out.”

“But they’re closed.”

“Just keep an eye on it, mate.”

I kept my eyes straight ahead, like he asked. There was the sharp hiss of a zip, rustle of leather, and a couple of thumps. Then the car began to rock, keeping pace with the muffled groans and panting.

I peered over the seat.

Monica’s tits hung low, like balloons filled with water. They pendulumed, slapping against her arms. Her skinny white ass bobbed up and down. She felt my gaze and leered at me, her eyes wild and glittery.

I gasped and jerked down. My heart thudded behind my ribs, and my skin burnt hot as coals.

The moans got louder and faster; the car pitched from side to side. I rolled onto my back and stared up at the roof. I wondered how Monica’s titties would feel—soft like bread dough, or more like a watermelon?

For a moment everything stopped … then died away into a long sigh. I waited for the rustle of clothing and slow laughter before I sat up.

“Bully, can you pass me the matches?” Monica asked, her voice full and round, like her tits.

I reached into the glove box and chucked the matches back without looking, scared of meeting her eyes. My mind was a whirl of emotion: guilt, excitement, shame, curiosity. A cloud of smoke hovered below the roof as Ron and Monica shared a ciggie.

A couple of minutes later, the driver’s door opened. “C’mon Bully. Time to go back to your seat,” Ron said.

I slunk out of the front and into the back.

We dropped Monica at the brick house in Portage Road. She knocked on my window before she left and leant forward, her boobs almost popping out her jacket.

“Nice to meet you, Bully.” She gave me a knowing smile.

A hot flush rose up my neck. I stared out the back as she waved goodbye, not a hair out of place, leather jacket half-zipped, and skyscraper heels wobbling on the pavement.

“This is our little secret, boy,” Ron said. “Don’t you go telling anyone.”

I nodded but stayed in the back seat. I wished I was home: the old man watching TV1 News, his long legs stretched out on the La-Z-Boy; Mum in the kitchen cooking fried bread and boil up; and my brother and sisters making nuisances of themselves.

When we got to the flat Ron put the jug on. He popped his head into the lounge. “You want a coffee, luv?” he said like he hadn’t been out rooting another woman.

“Yeah, that’ll be great,” Barbs replied.

Ron made me take the coffee in.

“How you, Bully?” she smiled, her blonde hair tousled and face fresh of make-up. Tammy dozed in her arms, a bubble of dribble on her fat lips.

“I’m good,” I said, keeping my eyes on the carpet so she couldn’t see Monica’s titties inside my head.

About the Author

Adele Anderson New Zealand Writer

At the end of 2018, Adele Anderson relinquished a middle management position and decided it was time to chase her long-held dream of becoming an author. ‘Nana Hana’, her debut short story, came second in the Page and Blackmore Competition. Since then, she has been longlisted in four other writing competitions. This year, Adele enrolled in the ‘Basics of Creative Writing Course’ at NZ Writers College to try and take her writing to the next level’, followed by two papers towards a Diploma of Arts (English) through Massey University.

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