by Kate Mahony
We wait beside the road for a long time. Then this old fat guy pulls up in a run-down station wagon. I get in the front, Lizzie in the back. When I go to stretch my legs out, there’s all this muck on the floor, empty lager cans drizzling backwash on to a brown paper lunch bag. The man’s wearing tweed trousers and he’s got one fat hand on the wheel, the other caressing the gear stick. He turns off the main highway. “Back route,” he says. “Faster. No cops.” Boxthorn hedges on either side. Can’t see much, just green paddocks here and there in the spaces, little side roads. The radio is on. 2ZB Talkback. The old guy squirms, lifts his left butt, settles himself. “You heard of that girl Carey Ana Moran?”
“Um,” I say.
“Carey Ana Moran.” He shouts it.
“Think so,” Lizzie mumbles.
“Yeah, name in the papers every day. Lotta talkback at the time.”
I remember now. My parents and their friends’ hushed voices. Nothing like this had happened before in our quiet islands. Her boyfriend came out from Toronto searching for her.
The girl was found under a bridge. Backpack beside her. Crouched down to pee. Blood everywhere.
“You wanna look under the seat? Go on. Put your hand under, lassie.”
I reach down and feel something. Hard. Metal. Long.
“Yeah,” the fat guy says. “It’s the gun that was used to kill her.”
It is a long time before the next tiny settlement. Nothing there but a country school. The buildings silent. It’s the holidays.
“Stop here. I need to pee,” I say.
Lizzie gets out too. We race around the back of the yard and hide in the bushes, waiting till we hear the car pull away. And then wait some more.
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I couldn’t find any photos of myself at 17 — probably because I went overseas in my 20s and disposed of lots of my things before leaving on my great “Overseas Experience” (OE) as it was called in New Zealand at that time. So instead, here is one of me (in the yellow top) at a central London market with a friend, some time in the 1970s. I was in my 20s. This is not the same friend from the story.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Memory — especially in writing — is a strange thing. My hitch-hiking companion insisted some years back that there had been a gun that day and I had reached down and touched it. She swore by this. Would you believe me if I said I had no memory of it? I remember so clearly the man and the school yard and my heart beating fast but the gun?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kate Mahony is a New Zealand writer. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University, Wellington. Her fiction has been published in among others, Takahe, the International Literary Quarterly, Blackmail Press, Blue Fifth Review, Headland, Flash Frontier, Litro NY, and The Island Review. Her short stories have appeared in the anthologies, The Best New Zealand Fiction, Vol 7 (Random House), Sweet As, Contemporary Short Stories by New Zealanders, Fish Anthology (Ireland), 2015 and Landmarks. Several of her stories have been shortlisted or longlisted in international competitions. Visit her at katemahonywriter.com.