Who Was The Halloween Woman? – Joel Ephraims

The Steelworks, Port Kembla

The woman who gave us the most lollies with the most enthusiasm every year. A stretched white summer dress over her rolls like an enlarged pastry wrapper greasy with afternoon shadow, swaths of lollies and chip packets glinting in there too with their inside silver skins, once a five dollar note and two dollar and one dollar coins. The smell of chip packets already opened rimmed her aura. Once playing touch footy the ball had gone in to the government owned garden on the edge of the reserve in front of her house. I’d gone in to get it and her voice had emanated from where she stood obscured by sun inside her partly opened curtain. An elbow with such a worn patch of skin over it that it looked like a crinkled lozenge weathered because never found in a treasure hunt in a garden–framed by serrating sun. Accompanying it behind the glass her shrill voice warning, undecipherable and irreconcilable with her former and future appearances. I took the ball and retreated back to the game and for a while after that her anger haunted that patch of the reserve, eclipsing and suffocating the trickling traces of Halloween that might arise at a glimpse of her house. Later on falling back and mingling, mystical American autumns, Australian Halloweens –mutated, hybrid, symbiotic –twilight with the fear of shrill repercussion, the garden at the edge of the field holding a dark lolly she had planted in one of her walks when she was taller than any of the forest red gums in the park past midnight, a lolly which gradually sprouted plants colourless and un-kept which eventually supplanted the others. Accompanying her on her giant walks, like a stray pup feeling bad for getting out but not lost, was the box in our living room, the machine which breezed out the purity of American Halloween– hockey masks, bulging eyes, starry excitement with the white of a scent like knowing that all the mess of stars up there makes up the swirling Milky Way, knowing that it is swirling and then being able to make your own swirl with it. She may have been Russian or even Czechoslovakian now that I think of it but the great breezes from the little pup have latched on. The knowledge of further powers, of unknown but pervasive planters. The city skyline, tall buildings seen shuffling from the car window, the glitter of the sun on their opaque windows, opaque during the day but like Christmas decorations at night, the pelican on a school excursion to the steelworks, an illusory king over my charcoal and paper, over the glitter of steel, the tongues of flame pale but brilliant like a whole set of quivering day moons –finally to be glued to a polystyrene cut-out attached to a cardboard spring beside a lighthouse sketched and glued crooked, like a stamp on the canvas I had oil paint smeared by hand, pointed out by an artist when it was hung up in the art gallery but my mum had just given birth to my brother and I’d been unable to attend, my art teacher told me about it later.