Amy Han is a Melbourne-based author and the founder of Creative Write-it!, which is dedicated to inspiring and encouraging young writers. She published her first novel, Ru Dreaming, in 2011. When she isn’t playing with words she can often be found practising circus tricks and parkour. This story is available in Issue One.
It just wasn’t summer without the Elcon. The sound of it whirring, turning its head from side to side like a carnival clown, was as crucial as the always-heard-never-seen-crickets, the almost-never-seen-but-always-felt-mozzies, the oily discomfort of being coated in sunscreen, ice cream melting down our arms, performing rain dances around the sprinklers in our undies.
We slept in the lounge room on camping mats. Even when we got an air con for the central part of the house, we still kept the Elcon going. I needed the sound to fall asleep. I liked the predictable timing of the air across my face, then across the faces of my brothers, and back to me again. I remember feeling like we could melt into the floor.
One of my brothers, Frank, had nightmares and would hit people in his sleep; imaginary people that were trying to take us away, but sometimes if we slept too close he’d get us by accident. I hit him back once. He swore at me and I cried, but even then he didn’t wake up. My other brother, Jimmy, told us both to shut up and go back to sleep. I tried to explain that Frank had been sleeping the whole time; that he woke me up by hitting me and then he swore. But by then Jimmy had already rolled over and continued snoring.
Mum and Dad had their own Elcon in their room. It was smaller than the one in the lounge, but worked just as well. When I was really little, I slept between them. I pretended to be asleep when Dad carried me back to bed, because I liked the way he tucked me in. If he knew I was awake, he’d have put me down and told me to go back to bed myself.
They put the house up for sale last week. Frank, Jimmy and I went back to help them tidy it up for real estate photos, and help them clear some stuff. I found a hair clip I had lost about twenty years ago. I put it in my pocket. It was a good thing, too–if I hadn’t stopped to do that, I wouldn’t have seen Mum out the window carrying the Elcon to the skip.
“Mum!” I called, rushing out the front door.
She was holding it over the edge.
“What is it? What happened?”
“Nothing happened,” I said. “I want that.”
“It doesn’t even work anymore, darling. I should have thrown it out years ago.”
“I want it. Please, mum.”
Mum brought it down, and walked towards me.
“You’re a funny girl,” she said.