Categorisation is very important to us boys. We categorise the colours of the flames, from hot to hottest; yellow, orange, red, white then blue. (We have diagrams in dull colour pencil to illustrate this). We categorise the waves, what patterns of foam in the swell will tell us about the power of the wave, whether it will be small, medium or large in type. Whether it might send a boy tumbling under its weight, for him to emerge on land, sopping, and proclaim with the grave boast of one who lived to tell the tale: he got dumped.
But it is with the most relish we categorise the differences between boys and girls. Who is smarter, who is faster, who is bigger—we organise school-wide games of Boys vs Girls to test our hypotheses. The girls say that in the womb, all start off female. We are not humiliated. We use their own argument to explain why we are the better, more developed sex, and they are primitive and unfinished.

This is how we make sense of the world. It does not make sense, however, when Lisa Falconetti dresses in boys’ clothes—it does not make sense when she crops her hair or, when playing family, plays the Daddy with such blasphemous sincerity. Had we known the word anomaly, we would’ve called her Anomalisa. Anomalisa is a teacher's pet, she sabotages our games of Boys vs Girls. She comes barrelling over with her narrow nose and clumsy arms and says Miss Marina would tell us off. But she does not get Miss Marina, instead she huddles with the girls and strategises. She knows the spots they can hide, she knows the boys travel in clumps and she knows this can be a weakness. She interferes with our knowledge and it is evil. She is not Miss Marina and she is not a boy. It’s not just that she ruins our games that made us put her on trial.
We gave her a choice: Admit she is only a girl or be pushed in the blackberry bush. She just blinked at us and said she didn’t care because Miss Marina would find out and we would be expelled. I don’t know why this made me hate her so much. It set off a blue, blue flame in my eyes, it set a huge foaming wave churning in my stomach. I said I was going to kill her. Now her chin pressed into her bottom lip and she started to cry; not fat, bubbly tears, but little glass beads that met at her chin. Some of the boys looked uncomfortable. I clasped her shoulders and hurled her into the thorns. She didn’t make a sound. Just a rustling as she fell through the leaves, the ink of the dark berries mixing with her hot blood.

Mr. Dylan tells us that scientists use what they know to explain what they see. But our method of inquiry is not scientific, it is a Hundred Years’ War of ignorance. We use what we see to explain what we know, and we know nothing.
We didn’t go to school for the next few days. Not because of our trial, but because of the snow. It didn’t come from a huge billowing cloud, but fell as if from thin air, settling overnight in the luxury of summer. The change in season was unexplainable, unexpected, blanketing the land in a cold blankness.

All the hate that could possibly fit in two clumsy five-year-olds, Frida and Meg feel for Kirk. You can see it in their eyes, following an identical path, back and forth, back and forth. They’re watching Kirk, who is running continuous laps around the kindergarten yard with a green-canvas shopping bag on his head, singing the post-chorus of Katy Perry’s “Roar” in a register imperceptible to certain breeds of dog.


“What’d ya say Meg? I couldn’t hear ya over the—” Frida is interrupted by a droning hair dryer. Their Dad is performing on Meg a crude method of lice-annihilation involving a hairdryer and scratchy combs. Meg is rubbing her hands over her face in discomfort.
“I said, Kirk is a no-necked monster!” She whispers hotly.
Frida is leafing lavishly through a Lego set instruction manual. She makes no attempt to imitate Meg’s whisper.
“Oh yeah?”
“Nothin’ but a big fat no-necked monster—”
The Dad accidentally yanks Meg’s hair painfully, she pulls down her cheeks, rolling her eyes back and kicking her legs. Her conspicuous restraint implies resignation from protest.
“Whaddya mean no neck?” Frida responds with delayed confusion.
“I mean he’s got no neck, just a big fat head. No neck and nothin’ to strangle” She smiles at the thought, but casts furtive glances at the overseeing parent. Frida pauses thoughtfully, leans in and mutters:
“What if you gave him a poison icy-pole and then say Hello Kirk, would you like an icy pole? and then put poison on it and then he would go Yes please! and then:” Frida starts gagging but breaks into giggling. The two of them, laughing in admiration of the brilliance of the plan: the theatricality, the irony, the morbid wit.


“Is mud poison?”
Meg responds firmly: “Yes, but not this mud”, and they return to searching their backyard, Meg carrying an icy pole mould of murky liquid. It’s olive grey, with streaks of sriracha, tanbark and pins having fallen to the bottom. They scrutinise everything they see, no matter how familiar; the world looks new seen through the lens of murder. Frida surveys the dirt. There are no toadstools or thorny stems, just tedious, harmless mulch. She lifts a frond revealing a tiny, yellow wasp, lying legs up at the base of a shrub with an odd sanctity. “A bee!” She picks it up by its wings, carefully observing its coiled abdomen. Its whole body is seized, frozen, as if it died of fright. She stands slowly, as if carrying a brimming glass. “Meggy, a bee!”. Finally looking up from the wasp, she sees Meg is gone. There is no sound but the murmuring static of swaying leaves. The house, the shed, the yard is empty. Frida’s bottom lip is hanging low, her arm still helplessly outstretched to present her findings: an echo of the triumph which has now turned to unease. She wanders to the other side of the yard to see Meg, down the side of the house, grinning, holding a brown, rectangular, plastic bottle with a black cap. Embossed down the side is the word: “POISON”.


“What’ll it do to him?” worries Frida, alarmed to so suddenly and unambiguiously find what they wanted. Meg is delecting in the drama of it.
“He’ll get all swollen. His arms will swell and his feet will swell and his eyes will swell. He’ll get swollen until his big fat head is the size of that shed.” Dinner-plate-eyed, Frida imagines his neck-less head swelling like a bubble, accidentally picturing him purple, due to overexposure to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film franchise. “Then what?” Meg produces a low rumble, doing her best to imitate the explosions she’s seen on TV with her pudgy fingers. By now Frida looks like a Type I power socket. Meg passes her the bottle of acetone, “Pour it”. She does so obediently, both of them expecting an ominous bubbling, or a pillar of smoke to rise and form a skull.


Kirk is wheeling about on a balance-bike, rounding corners of the yard until he stops at a secluded, eucalypt-shaded area. Frida and Meg are standing side to side. It is exactly like The Shining but in Abbotsford.
“Hello Kirk,” the girls spit through shit-eating grins, Meg brandishing the acetone icy-pole.
“Come play with us.”

There is a pause, the wind seems to hold its breath. Kirk sits deathly still, frozen by a danger he can sense but not yet understand.

(This next story is about a semi-fictional Russian pilot, Pavel Losev, trying to poach eggs.)
“It’s not a simple fucking mistake—”
“You just forgot the vinegar, honey.”
“Not the eggs, the fucking plane. Why would I blow a fucking fuse about eggs?”
“That’s proximity, honey. Little things close and big things far.”
So Pavel stands there watching the wispy whites turning lazily in the subsiding vortex, like a prop slowing after a flight. He takes a breath and kisses his wife on the head.
“Take the paper back to bed.”


Lyudmila Losev is sitting on the bedside chair, quietly removing the front page spread of a Turkish newspaper. A headline article details the recently revealed story of a scrambled Russian fighter jet mistakenly targeting an RAF plane, while a second Russian pilot swore at him, urging him to stop. That second pilot, pictured above the name Pavel Losev, is her husband. She glances over phrases in the article:
“High degree of unprofessionalism”
“Miss, not malfunction”
“Losev swore at his comrade, asking what he thought he was doing. Yet the first pilot still released another missile. The incident shows, once again, how one individual’s mistake could spark a wider conflict.”
She clicks her tongue ruefully, folds the page several times, and lowers it in the hotel waste paper basket.


Pavel stares down the egg carton. Four of the six are gone, the toast he prepared remains bare. He picks up an egg, pauses, replaces it, and refills the pot with fresh water. Heat on high, he glares at the bottom of the pot, tiny, mercurial beads shaking angrily, refusing to rise to the surface. He stands up from the stovetop. “Fucking watched pot.” He glances at his watch and steps out onto the balcony, positioning himself on a wicker chair. Sitting upright, he takes another breath.

A peloton of pram-wielding young-couples ambles and laughs down the street. Two clumsy five-year-olds trail behind, conferring seriously. His eyes track them, knuckles grazing the tiny whiskers under his chin. Finally he sits back in the chair, straightening almost immediately and re-entering the kitchen. He turns down the element, dips a slotted spoon in the water, hesitates, removes it, and cracks the egg in a shallow mug. Returning to the pot, he starts stirring the water, the metal spoon making an irritating, warbling clang. He picks up the mug. “Now you’re not trying to fucking scramble them, Pavel.”
Spinning harder and harder, the vortex wobbles, sloshing out the side. Spinning, spinning, clanging, clanging, his jaw clamped shut, all at once he dumps the egg in the centre. The yolk pops out the side like a dislocated eyeball. He makes an awkward, primal sound, like a burp of despair. Eggy strands blossom out the top, he carefully nudges the yolk back into its socket with the back of the spoon, halting the water.


Lyudmila fiddles with her collar, absently mumbling a half-remembered lullaby.

Fly high little honeybird,
Show the sky your crest,
Not too high, honeybird,
Lest you lose your nest.

Fly fast little honeybird,
Mind your eggs don’t fall,
Not too fast, honeybird,
Lest you lose control.

Lose control, little honeybird,
Lest you lose control.

She turns her head to the kitchen.


He taps the underside of the egg with the tip of the spoon, checks his watch, and lifts it out. It splits at the sides, uncooked whites running back into the pan and immediately forming opaque wisps. He gasps and catapults it, satisfyingly, into the sink.


“Sorry, I would’ve made a booking. I was… Y’know, the eggs…”
He trails off. She holds his hands, smiling, eyes-closed down at the table: A gesture of understanding. They share a silent look. The waiter arrives, taking their order.
“You two are tourists?”
“Holidaying. Today’s her anniversary”, Pavel responds.
Lyudmila smiles: “Yours too.”
Pavel laughs, “Yes… mine too.”
The waiter leaves. She firmly returns her eyes to his.
“You don’t have to pretend our marriage is the first thing on your mind just because it’s today.”
“Of course it is.”
He wriggles his jaw. He can’t resist.
“I’m just saying it’s more than a simple mistake. It could’ve been—”
“It’s still simple, honey. He can’t unscramble an egg and neither can you.”

I was an angry selfish teen in a quiet old town. I’d lived there my whole life. I knew all the people and they all knew me.

Every day I’d storm past the church, pushing people aside as I muttered to my shoes. The church was a grand old building and the only thing I’d look up for on my walk to the train station. I’d ponder my memories of it as I passed by. Like the time I fell off the roof and tried to pretend I wasn’t hurt, or when someone dramatically came out as trans mid sermon. It was a wise old place that had seen the world go by, and it was beginning to show it.

One day the town got fed up with my nasty demeanour and decided to play a joke. People of all ages dressed up as me, muttering angrily and pacing through the town centre, pushing me out of their way as they went. I ignored them and tried to pretend I wasn’t hurt. To get a reaction out of me, the joke persisted, becoming somewhat of a tradition to confuse tourists and passersby.

One day I noticed some people in helmets and hi-vis surrounding the church. Apparently the bricks had gotten too old and the stairs too creaky for the structure to be safe anymore. Over the next few days it would be demolished. From then on I stopped looking up. I’d just watch my feet for the whole trip, the route of which I’d changed so I no longer had to push my way through the morning crowds. I’d sit at the back of the train with my gaze down and my mouth shut.

By the end of the week there was barely anything left of the church, so the townspeople decided to blow the rest of it up with fireworks, as a send off. We all gathered round, holding our breath, as the fuses were lit. Before long the sky was fizzing and popping with sparks. Everyone’s eyes would follow the rockets go up, before exploding in a rosey gold. I turned to watch the fixated crowd, all in their homemade costumes they’d come to know as uniform.

That was when I realised I no longer recognised myself in their caricatures of me. My chin pressed into my bottom lip as I shed a tear.