unnamedA carpenter ant carried two black balloons strung together by belts, her cousin Tutu had told her. She was sprawled on the ground, after hopelessly waiting for two days, when she finally saw it. The ant didn’t seem to mind and moved slowly. Like it didn’t care.

Satisfied, she slowly got up, legs dangling on the bench, and adjusted the polka-dotted blue plastic hairband on her blunt bob, like an antenna that sent a message to God that everything was under control. It was so much easier to manage, Mum said. Knots were trouble and untidy. And God punished unclean kids. But why didn’t God focus on Mum’s wardrobe?

She had cried and shouted so Mum wouldn’t take her to the salon. God was only interested in children. And He could even see knotted hair from the sky. Messy adults could manage kids. Even angry adults. But if she wasn’t careful, He could take her toys away or even let Dad hit her. She frowned that other adults didn’t put a stop to this. In disbelief she had listened to her classmate saying there was more than one god. She would fight God like the Ninja Turtles fought with bad people. She would have to wait until she was a teenager.

She scratched her neck where sweat had rained on the bob. Snip, snip. The lady at the salon had tickled her with scissors. She remembered black hair that looked like crescent moons, falling past her knees to drop like feathers. She counted up to 20 before a ticking clock came near the ears. Snip, snip.

She looked up at the beach, singing her favourite rhyme, toes in the sand, when a sudden impulse to return to playing with “don’t go near them” kids rose up like a wave. She continued singing.


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