Reservoir Mum has opened up a new bank account with NAB and we’re driving with Tyson to the local branch at Northland Shopping Centre, to hand over my ID, sign a few forms and finalize the deal when I suddenly remember the horror of a situation that occurred three years ago.
‘RM’, I say, as I turn up the radio to catch Don’t Leave Me This Way by the Communards, ‘Do you remember that annoying woman at Archie’s Kinder break up?’
‘Umm…’ she says, turning down the radio.
‘You know, when she smiled she bared her teeth like a chimp and her lips spread into the shape of a buckle.’
‘Yeah. We told her you were pregnant and that soon we’d have three boys under five, and then she said, ‘Wow, you’ll be busy,’ and you said, ‘No, Reservoir Dad will be busy, he stays home with them,’ and she looked at me like I had an arse for a face and then touched your arm… all sympathetic and said, ‘Oh, you poor thing’.
Reservoir Mum laughs, ‘Why are you thinking about that?’
‘Banks freak me out,’ I say, turning up the music, ‘At some stage they’re going to ask about my profession and I’m going to say ‘home duties’ and they’ll look at me they same way Buckle Mouth did.’
‘That woman wasn’t saying anything about you…’
‘She thought,’ I say, cutting her off, ‘that I was some kind of free-loading bogan nuffnuff. That my contribution ended at ‘watching the kids’ in front of the TV and that you worked full time and came home to cook and clean and pick the moccasin fluff off my oil-stained, acid-wash jeans. You know what? That’s the only time in my life I wished I owned an AK-47.’
‘I didn’t think you worried about other people’s assumptions anymore… anyway, at least people don’t say things directly to your face. A patient at work today looked at my belly and said, “Are you having twins?”’
‘No way. That is shit,’ I say, pausing between each word to convey my distaste.
‘Yeah. You’re not the only one who needs an AK-47.’
‘True. Anyway, I just wish I’d said something to Buckle Mouth at the time. I’d be at peace right now,’ I say, as we pull up in the Northland carpark. The big black and red NAB sign hangs over us like an adversaries gleaming battle-axe. ‘But I know one thing for certain. I will never again create the space for such injustice to linger.’
I’m chasing Tyson all over the NAB. He’s screaming and hollering and having the time of his life and while there is a small part of me that wants to encourage him to be quiet the more prominent part of me thinks that he’s having fun and distracting me and that all the other people in the bank can just get stuffed if they don’t like it.
‘They’re so transparent,’ I say, sitting down next to Reservoir Mum on one of the color coordinated couches.
‘Who?’ she asks.
‘The bourgeoisie,’ I say waving my arms to signify the entire bank and all its employees. I point down at the carpet. ‘Their use of navy blue carpet is an obvious attempy to try and calm us down so that they can ply us out of all our cash. I won’t have it.’
‘You do need to calm down. It’s just a bank. Relax.’
Reservoir Mum’s words alert me to the fact that my left heel is tapping nervously. I need to compose myself. ‘You’re right,’ I sigh, ‘It’s just a fricken bank.’
I jump up and grab Tyson as he starts on another lap around the couch and when I throw him in the air he squeals and giggles. We play chasey in and out of the entrance of the bank. Just as I pick him up, lift his jumper, and start chomping down on his bare belly a NAB woman approaches us. ‘Celeste will call you over in just a minute,’ she says. She’s just about to return to her desk but stops to ask, ‘How many kids do you have?’
‘Three… and another one in there,’ I say, pointing at Reservoir Mum’s tummy.
‘Wow,’ she says, turning away from me, ‘That’s so brave. You must be so busy.’
‘He’s busy,’ she replies, directing the woman’s attention back to me, ‘He’s at home with them.’
‘Oh, isn’t that gorgeous! So you’re like… the Mum,’ she says to me.
I glance at Reservoir Mum as she mouths What The Fuck! and I know my time has come. ‘No,’ I reply, ‘I’m like… the Dad.’
‘Yeah, but you do all the Mum stuff…’ she says, as quick as a whip.
It occurs to me, as I watch her waddle back to her desk, that the cold weight of AK-47 in my hand is not real, and that what I needed more than anything was a smart and appropriate response. ‘No,’ I whisper weakly as Celeste calls us to the service window, ‘I do the Dad stuff.’
Celeste greets us with a cheesy smile and asks for my ID. I hand it over to her and watch the computer monitor as she clicks in all my details via drop down menus. The question is on its way. I know it’s coming. I lift Tyson’s jumper and bite his tummy again to hear his giggle and distract myself but it’s pointless. The ground beneath my feet reverberates with each click of Celeste’s mouse and my innards churn. My scent has entered the beast’s flaring nostrils. I cannot flee. ‘Here it comes,’ I say to Reservoir Mum. She reaches out to hold my hand as Celeste says, casually, ‘What’s you profession?
RM leans to me and says, ‘You’re the director of a company, RD. Just tell her that.’
‘No,’ I say holding up Tyson and looking into his perfect blue eyes before stating loudly: ‘I’m a stay at home Dad.’
There’s silence. I look back at the monitor to see that Celeste is looking confused and moving the cursor up and down the menu. ‘So, I’ll just put that you’re currently out of work then?’
‘What the fuck?’ RM says, more audibly this time.
When I squeeze my hand into a fist I feel the AK-47 and this time, it feels loaded. Still, I seem to be having trouble finding the trigger. ‘Look,’ I say, ‘you’re making me sound like I’m lazing around all the time or something… but I’m not and… do you have kids?’
Reservoir Mum leans in front of me puts her hand under the service window and says, ‘If I was at home with three kids under six would you say I was currently out of work? No, you wouldn’t.’
Celeste hardly misses a beat. ‘Home duties?’
‘That’ll do,’ I say.
‘Great. So you’ll receive your card within five to seven working days. You have a choice of two colors: black…’ she says, turning to hold my gaze, ‘or pink.’
‘I’ll return your gaze,’ I say, my expression a Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry/Unforgiven combo, ‘ And I’ll take pink.’
‘I created space for the injustice to linger, again,’ I say to Reservoir Mum as we approach the checkout of Northland’s Safeway with a few essentials. ‘Jesus. I mean, they’re women. Shouldn’t they get it?’
‘Don’t worry about them,’ she says, ‘They’re idiots.’
As Reservoir Mum strikes up a perfunctory conversation with the woman serving us I start going through a list of more appropriate and powerful one-liners: I’m not out of work I’m raising three children… Looking after kids is a big job… You haven’t worked until you’ve been a stay at home parent… Blah, they all seem so lame and just as I resign myself to simply adding this to my long list of situational failures I hear the checkout woman say, ‘Twenty-four weeks? Wow. You’re big. Are you sure you’re not having twins?’ and I see that Reservoir Mum is standing there. Mouth open. Mute.
There is the sense within me that this moment has been approaching forever. I have moved through a thousand lifetimes to reach this very point. The distance between me and the cashier withdraws itself so that I can deliver the soul affirming line within inches of her face,
‘And you look like a bucket of shit!’
‘Man, that was awesome,’ I say, as we drive back home.
Reservoir Mum laughs. ‘A bucket of shit?’
I shuffle my self titled play list Reservoir Dad to Queen’s I Want To Break Free. ‘I think this is probably the most appropriate song for us right now.’
‘I agree’ she says, as we link hands and move our fingers around like we’re fumbling over the same greasy chicken wing.
‘Here’s my pregnancy tip for week 24. Huggies say that it’s not unusual for women to start producing a lot more saliva at this stage. Some people may even compare you to the dog from the famous movie Turner and Hooch, but don’t worry because they generally won’t say it to your face,’ I say, turning to Reservoir Mum, ‘But if they do…’
‘…you’ll know exactly what to say to them,’ she laughs.
We make our way up Albert Street and the overwhelming and rewarding aura of Reservoir warms us like the glow of a generously sized plasma TV. I look in the rear vision mirror to see that Tyson is head banging and I love it and when I put my hand out of the window and tap to the beat on the roof of the Commodore I can hear the metallic clang of AK-47 meeting car and if my biceps weren’t already seventeen and a half inches large and tight as a drum I’d simply imagine they were.