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By Steven Herrick

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I fake injury, lice, dizzy spells, but Aunt Alice can’t be fooled. ’ firing across the battlefield we call a playground. ’ 35 By the River PAGES 7/7/04 2:50 PM Page 36 Eggs Early on Saturday, Dad collects the eggs from our chook shed. He keeps a dozen. The rest he packs in an old shoebox. He calls Keith or me, and asks us to take them to Mr Ross next door, or the Spencers, or Mrs Appleyard. Once, I pleaded, ‘No, Dad, not her. She’s always going on about me and Keith . . ’ Dad smiled and said, ‘Better to be friends with neighbours, Harry.

Scuzz got his dad’s bolt-cutters and cut a hole, body-size, in the western fence of the Army Reserve. We climbed through, towels and swimmers ready, and ran to the pit, full from summer storms. Our new swimming hole. Rumour spread: the Army dumped disused weapons and unexploded shells into the pit, and sometimes we saw dark shadows below. And once Scuzz got chased to the bank by a red-bellied black snake. The gang spent every weekend there because 48 By the River PAGES 7/7/04 2:50 PM Page 49 bombs and guns and snakes were harmless shapes beside the ghost of Linda guarding Pearce Swamp in the afternoon heat.

Harry. Harry Hodby. 29 By the River PAGES 7/7/04 2:50 PM Page 30 The pieman The pieman came to our school every day at lunchtime. He parked his van on the footpath, loaded his oven with split firewood and waited. I could taste the hardwood smoke in each pie. Keith and me would sit under the fig tree and eat two pies each. Our dad’s treat for Monday only, but one day the pieman heaped too much wood, still damp, into the oven. Two hundred children stood at the fence watching the van, smoke black and pungent, while the pieman swore and shouted and swore some more, 30 By the River PAGES 7/7/04 2:50 PM Page 31 until the cleaner soaked the van with the school hose, and Keith and me thought of the useless coins jangling in our pockets.

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