Beata works as a qualified primary school teacher, a councillor for drug and alcohol addiction and a farm caretaker for organic olive grow.
Polly licked her finger and touched the red dirt
He was filling up the petrol on the remote petrol station up North the Gulf of Carpentaria
“Are we there yet dad?” She glared at him bored
while painting long red line on her dark thin Gypsy face
using the window on her passenger door as her mirror
“Polly what sandwich do you want, egg or ham?” Her father
shouted through the door.
“I want a sausage roll,” she rolled her eyes and stormed inside.
All her friends at school were laughing at her favorite Frigarui.
“It is just a kebab Romanian way,” She pulled the tongue at them.
Then she thought to herself only if mum would be at home
cooking them, dad was just hopeless.
When Polly entered a big white man in singlet across the counter
threw a sausage roll in a paper bag while outstretching other hand:
“First you pay, don’t know where your dad hailed from
but I know your bloody mob.”
Polly looked at her dad who mattered under his breath in Romanian:
“Tell him Romanians are not thieves, even if we are Gypsies.”
Once on the road again she quickly gulped the roll down and wiped
her greasy lips into a paper bag dad snatched from her suddenly
and threw it out of the open window.
“You are littering dad,” she shouted angrily but he probably did not
understand that word.
“You are like your mum, I can survive with basic English working
as a bricklayer.”
“But you are an electrician and we have been in Australia for six years,”
Polly responded back copying her mum’s tone in her teenager’s way.
“I had an electrician’s workshop back home but your mum found
a pamphlet of Australia seeking the foreign doctors and here we are.”
“On the road to see her,” Polly smiled broadly: “I can wait to see the
real Aboriginals she is treating, I never saw any down in the city we live in.”
“Your mum was always obsessed with English reading you those Pollyanna’s
bedtime stories, like our Romanian fairy tales, are not good enough.”
“Dad, you said yourself mum barely got paid as a village doctor
often in eggs I remember and there was no school for me to go to.”
“But I had my village pub and people always needed to repair something,
even if they have nothing to pay you back with.”
“You know what mum said,” she pointed her finger in a new nail polish
at him the way mum used way before she moved up North to finish
her medical practicum to be a fully qualified GP: “Here a girl like me
can be anything I wish to be, I am not just a dirty gypsy, I am a Romanian.”
Her dad touched his greyish moustache and winked at her: “Do you remember how they greeted us on arrival, like kings even gave us a
Romanian translator in the hospital where you end up with that boil.”
Polly turned back to the window embarrassed:
And suddenly there it was...
Mum’s post in a little house with barred windows and doors with a sign: ‘Health Service.’
“Our poor Romanian village was a luxury resort comparing with this,”
Her dad looked around in disbelief on dilapidated corrugated iron shed filled with black faces of all ages with some old folks sleeping on old matraces
They just managed to park their car upfront when an young girl in her age
was carried by an old man inside the Health Service. Dad looked alarmed
as the old man in his grief and in a sudden weakness nearly dropped her
so he quickly grabbed the lifeless body from his hands and Polly noticed
the girl’s perfect round tanned face with full lips and closed eyes. Her thick
black curls were touching red dirt.
She followed the company inside where she stood in the corridor
watching her mum attending to the girl moved to an old rusty stretcher
the only one in the small room: “How many times has she fainted like this?”
The old man was responding in pidgin English the Aboriginal nurse
translated for mum to understand.
Mum smiled at Polly with a tired face and nodded at Dad who took Polly’s hand and ushered her to the back of the house
where mum occupied small room with kitchen and bathroom in the corner: “Let us make Frigaruj for dinner, got me the esky from the ute will you?”
She heard him singing happily in his Romanian about bacon skewered
with onions, peppers and tomatoes. The food was the only thing left from
the old world he understood.
When mum joined them for dinner late that evening she was very exhausted.
“Poor girl, what is wrong with her?” Dad asked, piling her plate full.
She just sighed looked at Polly lovingly: “I would never imagine kids are
suffering in Australia is worse than in the poorest part of our Romania.”
“It makes no sense mum, we were given the best possible health care
when we arrived with nothing, these people are real Australians, no?”
“And we thought us gypsies are treated badly in Europe,” dad sighed
and touched mum’s hand: “This is not our country, my wife, that is their
rules, we can be just happy they do not treat us like them.”
“It is not fair,” mum dropped the fork suddenly: “All I treat here is poverty,
the heart rheumatism is unheard of in kids and long time eradicated as it
can be treated swiftly with a surgery but these people are just given Panadol
as it is all we have for them.”
Then mum turned to Polly: “She woke up and is scared, I want to keep her
here for observation so the days you are trying to make her company.”
And so the next week Polly was visiting her mum she spend whole days
with her new Aboriginal friend, the only friend she made in Australia and
a true Australian even though her name was original: ‘Australiana’.
“What a funny name,” Polly laughed when they both lied in the hammock
on the verandah while an afternoon breeze rocked them. Australiana pulled
her curls cheekily: “Look who's talking, p p Pollyanna.”
“No seriously, why did your parents give you that name?” She looked at her
friend patting gently her protruding belly: “Dunno making fun of all those thieves who just steal from us or copy us and call it originally Australian.
“Are you pregnant?”
The girl burst out laughing...
“Nope I have just a belly full of bush tomatoes, anyway pass me that pannikin will you?”
“What is pannikin, I never heard of bush tomatoes either.” Australiana shook her head and her long curls bounced around her when she reached for her tin cup and gulped the strong bush tea in it. Then she wiped her mouth in her old t-shirt and winked at Polly: “I have my real name my mob name,
Australian I just use it for white folks like you.”
They were so different and yet they both share the same teenager’s
anxiety and worries of being liked and accepted. They brushed each other's hair and Polly painted Australiana's nails and did her make up. And then
they lied down next to each other in the net looking at dark red tropical
sky and dreamt what their lives will be when they grow up.
When Polly was leaving with her dad to go back to the city she hugged her best friend who just stared at her from their hammock they shared.
She was about to leave when Australiana pushed a piece of crumpled
paper into her hands whispering into her ear: “I will not see you again.”
Polly sighed and joined mum next to the car who was passing her the backpack: “Don’t worry I am organising a heart operation for Liana, when you visit me next time you will be both running around in the bush pushing a pram with her baby.”
Polly looked at her mum surprised but dad pushed her in: “Come on long way to ride.” Then he turned to his wife: “Two more visits and then you are
back in the city with us.”
“Dad is it true? Liana is of my age, she can’t be mum yet,” Polly looked at her dad who scratched his neck uncomfortably: “Look it is different world here, she was raped, it is difficult.”
The next school holidays when they were packing for the visit to up north
again Polly was jumping around excited to meet her best friend again packing all the clothes she wanted her to try as she was the same size
when her dad entered the room quietly and looked at the packed bag:
“She will not need Polly anymore.” He put his head into hands: “This
Australia makes no sense to me.”
“What do you mean?” Polly pushed his arms out of his face only to discover he was crying and her heart sank: “Mum said surgery is simple and not dangerous, people have it all the time, old people.”
“They refused her surgery and she died waiting to have it.” Dad’s shoulders
dropped: “Your mum said she tried so hard, the nearest town with hospital was hundreds km away but they managed to get her there but she did not fit the right category anyway she was not a child being a mother of newborn and she was not a pensioner who usually have this type of surgery also she never visited dentist and no heart surgeon will operate a person with untreated teeth because of possible infection.”
“So why did not take her to see the dentist?” Polly asked angrily but dad
put his hands on her bony shoulders: “Listen to yourself do you know how
much dentist costs?”
“I have my teeth checked at school for free, she is at school too, isn’t she?”
“There is no school where Australiana live or lived anyway it is too late.”
Polly picked up her bag and spilled all the fashionable clothes Australiana
dreamt to wear on the carpet then she threw herself on the top and cried.
The next day at school she watched her confident classmates in the best
clothes brought there in the shiny new cars by her well off parents and
she felt very alienated from it all like never before. When she opened her
lunchbox with her dad’s Frigaruj she found a crumpled piece of paper
Australiana gave her their farewell. Dad must have found it when putting
her clothes were washed and kept. There was only one sentence on it”
‘Pray for me Pollyanna. From your friend.’
On the Language lesson that day a teacher encouraged them to write
a creative piece about the most memorable person they met.
She overheard her classmates excitedly chatting about their best surf teacher, pop singer or footy player.
Polly looked up at her screen and started to type: ‘My time with Australiana.’
The teacher stopped by and pointed at her title: “I know you are still new
to this country Polly, Australiana is not a person it is an expression of
everything that is original to Australia you know like Aussie rules, Pavlova,
Anzac day or Australian day. Why don’t you write about that famous cricketer who just died, he was our best and a true blue Aussie you know.”
“I don’t like cricket,” Polly shook her head and kept staring at the teacher who lost patience and pushed the delete button: “Better you start again Polly.”