A Hundred Gourds 3:4 September 2014

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Beverley George - Australia

Empty Boxes (Part 1)

A straggle of shops roadside, in a nearby seaside village. I stop to buy fresh produce, am eyeing off avocados, gauging ripeness, when I notice a new business has opened next door.

‘Massage’ it offers, in bold letters.

In the window, square boxes of skin care products are piled up like children’s building blocks. The brand name catches my attention. It is a product I have been unable to source locally, depending instead on a city-dwelling friend to buy it for me, when convenient.

The proprietress rushes to greet me. She is conspicuously tanned on every inch of visible flesh, and a sea-horse tattoo adorns the left side of her neck. Over her shoulder I can see two cubicles, an empty bed in each.

I ask to purchase a day and a night cream. She takes two boxes from the window, flips one in each palm to show me they are empty.

‘Display,’ she explains. ‘I can order the creams in for you. Takes three days.’

It is then that I notice two young children with a scatter of toys, huddled in the corner of a storage area. Her eyes follow my gaze.

‘School holidays,’ she says. ‘Nowhere to leave them.’

I order the products, offering a deposit, which she accepts.

empty boxes
each one holding

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