Fish Paste

Charlie knew things would be different. Everything changes with time. Still, he had not expected anything any on this scale.

Looking around, Charlie’s memory takes him back to when his Uncle’s caravan park stood here. Carefree childhood summers invade his mind. Images and sounds impose themselves on the shops and buildings now scarring the landscape.

A group of trailers becomes the old wooden fishing boat that was once part of the caravan park’s playground. Three young boys scamper about her cabin, waving plastic swords, affecting rough pirate accents. The carwash disappears, replaced by the camper that was the centre of so many holidays.

Behind the caravan park, his Aunt’s holiday house ghosts over a block of townhouses. The smell of Grandma’s butterfish wafts out to where Charlie and his brothers dangle from the old swings. While his brother has a bath in the stone trough, Charlie watches his Uncle pulling coins from behind his sunburnt ears.

During a break in a storm, Charlie’s young family trudge across the caravan park, returning from tea with their Aunt.

Beside the bungalow, another summer. Charlie is stuck in the gnarled conifer that towered over the holiday house. From the ground, Mum is guiding him down. Even now, heights terrify Charlie.

An old Holden pulls up to the house. Charlie watches his sleeping self being carried to the bungalow after a night watching the fairy penguins come ashore. A small, pajama-clad figure armed with a torch makes a trek to the outside toilet, watching for monsters along the way.

The salty tang of the sea reaches Charlie. Now that the avenue of conifers has been cut down, the wind seems harsher. In the caravan park, Charlie and his brother run back and forth, trying to get their kites off the ground. Clad in matching cowboy costumes, Tim complains about Charlie shooting him. As usual, Tim refuses to die.

Four brothers stand over a bucket of toadfish. Charlie’s first successful fishing trip. The last summer at the holiday house. Strange, thinks, Charlie, watching the only time the four siblings were there together.

The caravan park had gone, but the land was still vacant. That was a different stay, the final holiday here. Charlie’s father had left. His Grandmother had died. There were no more family holidays after that summer. Not real ones, at least.

Charlie’s memory takes one last glance around the kitchen of the house. The smell of calamine lotion on sunburnt backs and fish paste sandwiches linger in his nostrils. Sounds of packing at the end of summer ricochet around Charlie’s mind.

The petrol bowser shuts off, bringing Charlie back to now. He looks at what progress has done to the backdrop of so many childhood memories.

For a brief moment, he thought he caught a glimpse of three young boys, climbing over an old wooden fishing boat…

Copyright © 2017 Bronwyn Joy Hansen. All Rights Reserved.
Image Copyright © 1978 & 2017 Hansen Family Archive. All Rights Reserved.

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