Think What I Want (The Power of Lying)

“What happened Cynthia?”

“Tommy broke the swing. He jumped up and down, round and round, up and down, round and round, till it broke.”

Mummy’s green eyes went black. She’s looking through me again.

“Cynthia, are you lying to me?”  Mummy’s voice was in my head.

Think nothing, say nothing, Mummy can’t hear me anyways. What about Tommy? I thought.

Then Tommy jumped on her. Squealing, clawing and grabbing. Mummy picked him up. See, that’s why he cries.

“Tommy does jump up and down on the swing so.” Mummy’s lips weren’t moving.

If Mummy can think at me, I can think back at her. “’Tommy broke the swing. Before.’” I thought. “Tommy broke the swing.”

“Daddy can put the seat back on. Or put the spare one on. Or it’s really broken now. Daddy will know,” Mummy spoke.

Who cares anyways about the swing anymore? Mummy can do whatever I want. Mummy and Tommy went into the house. I had the swing to myself.

That night, I was too busy beating Josie at touch the table, to remember anything. And I grabbed the tablecloth without her seeing me.

Luckily I got back to the big rug in time.

Daddy nearly fell out of his chair. All his papers fell onto the floor too! They got so wet that when Daddy picked them up, he got splashed. So funny!
Till Daddy yelled. I stopped laughing then.
Daddy ran. He tipped the chair over. The kitchen door banged. He yelled at Mummy. Then the door shut.
I can’t say what he said. It’s not allowed.

“I’ll take care of it,” he said. I didn’t hear anything after that.

Josie and I kept playing with our dolls. Daddy came out. He picked up the broken glass. He put towels down. He had one on his hand.

The kitchen door banged again. His hand really hurt. He was worried. He said something about “Tet ness.” I don’t know what that is. But it sure thought scary.

“I’ll take care of it, Carolyn,” I heard him say, “I’ll find out who did it.” I couldn’t hear anything after that. 

Then above me stood Daddy. He was so tall. Staring at me. Staring at Josie. He had the good tea towel too. Wrapped around his hand. Red, wet and dripping.

Think nothing, I thought. Daddy can’t hear me.

I kept playing with my dolls.

“Did you knock the glass off the table?”

“No Daddy. I’ve been playing with my dolls. See this is my special one. Isn’t she beautiful?” Josie held up her yukkiest doll.

“Maybe Josie is lying,” Daddy spoke in my head. I thought at him, “Josie is lying.”

“For the last time, Josie. Did you knock the glass off the table?”

I thought at Josie. “Say yes, say yes, say yes.”

“No Daddy.”

“Cynthia. Were you playing chasings, too?”

“Yes Daddy,” I said.

“Did you break the glass off the table?”

“No Daddy,” I said. Anyways, the glass broke on the floor. Not the table.

Daddy thought, “I have to get back to work.”

I can’t tell you what he thought. Too many long words.

“Before the glass fell, I heard footsteps. ” Daddy thought,. “But whose?”

I thought the sound of Josie’s footsteps at him.

“Josie! You, you, you, knocked the glass off the table, didn’t you?”

I thought even harder at Josie, “Say yes, say yes, say yes.”

“I didn’t see the glass.”

“Josie. You need to be more careful. Cynthia too. Both of you.”

Daddy shrugged. He wound the towel around his hand. He went into the lounge room. I heard the TV.

“Cynthia, you heard Daddy, no more running in the house,” Josie said. I thought at Josie, “Stop being so bossy.” Josie made a face.

Josie said, “You cheated at touch the table. You broke the glass. You lied to Daddy. I’m not playing with you. Ever.“ Her lips weren’t moving.

I looked up. I’m on the other side of the big rug. With my dolls. Away from Josie.

I got mad. I thought, I’ll think back at you. I tried so hard. I only got madder. Josie still played with her doll. That nice pretty doll.  I wasn’t mad at Josie anymore.

Mummy came out of the kitchen. She looked at me. She looked at Josie.  The TV got louder. Mummy shut the door.

I  heard them thinking about what’s on the TV. I can’t say what they saw. It’s not allowed.

“Cynthia ran past you.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Alex. You can’t keep an eye on them for even a second can you?”

“Carolyn, Josie broke the glass. She said so.”

“Cynthia broke the glass. And you know what Josie’s like, she always takes the blame.”

“Carolyn, what are you talking about? I heard Josie’s footsteps.”

“Didn’t you see Cynthia trip? She nearly fell. Till she grabbed the tablecloth!”

“Carolyn. You weren’t there. You didn’t see what happened,”

Mummy was in the kitchen. With the door shut.

“You knew.”

“Of course I knew.”

“You didn’t see what Cynthia did to Tommy on the swing, did you?” Daddy thought. I drew close to the door.

“Don’t you, don’t you start that.”


“Change the subject on me.”

“Don’t get mad at me. I know what I saw.” Daddy was so loud.

“She said Tommy broke the swing.”

“Carolyn. Cynthia broke the swing. She twisted the seat up and down. Unhooked it. Dumped Tommy off.”  Tommy was asleep now.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” My head ached.

“Carolyn. I am telling you. Now. Here. Right Now. Okay.”

“She said Tommy broke the swing.” I ran back to the big rug.

“Cynthia said it? Or did she think it?”

“Cynthia said it. I thought she did. It shouldn’t happen until she’s much older.” Mummy thought.

Then my head went silent. I can’t think what I want anymore.


I Grew Up A NewspaperMan

I grew up a newspaperman. My dad was the editor of the Canowindra Star, the local paper in Canowindra New South Wales.  He wasn’t the grizzled editor from central casting : think of Perry White in Superman or Benjamin Bradlee in All the Presidents Men. No, he was my Dad (Kevin Whalan) : as he describes he was subeditor, editor, journalist, photographer, advertiser and publisher as well.

And my brothers and sisters were newspapermen and women too. For Dad, unusually and non-traditionally, took his family with him when he worked. I can recall seeing Rugby Union matches, the Friday night trots, and even the occasional council meeting (almost certainly I slept through that).

He would take the photos with a Brownie box camera. He would then put the paper together in his office during the week. I can recall visiting him after school as the office was next to the local barber (the one that wasn’t cranky).  Later when he worked from home, I saw him write, rewrite, subedit and then dictate copy over the phone.

On Tuesdays, Dad would drive to Cowra where the paper was printed at the Cowra Guardian for distribution on Wednesdays. He would take my brother and I (as far as I can recall) with him and we would go into the printery.

256px-Bundesarchiv_B_145_Bild-F011578-0010,_Boppard,_DruckereiWe’d first enter the linotype room. It was a confusion of activity. Men were running everywhere. Linotypes are smelly, loud and dirty. And overwhelming at first. And messy. I still can see in my mind’s eye the texture of metal filings in oil on the floor.  Much like shiny black sandpaper.  Men would sit on a steel chair and type at a keyboard with copy clipped to the machine. I could hear the roar of the motors and the clatter and rattle of the typing. Every so often metal would issue forth and be added to a metal square (the form).

It obviously was not a safe environment for children. Especially as one of the children (me!) was somewhat accident-prone. But nothing happened to me at all.

When the form was complete and cooled a roller was dipped into ink and spread over it. Then paper would be added and rolled over again. Then the result would be proof-read. I too can recall reading the proof.  I don’t recall making any corrections or being responsible for any misprints fortunately.  Once proofread the form and paper would be sent away.

Then later in the day, almost as a separate process, we’d see the printing press in action. It too was loud but fast.  It would produce the papers as one and then deposit them to be retrieved. It was then  we saw the paper come together and quickly!

Then Dad would load up the car and take the early editions back home to Canowindra. The rest of the issues were distributed the following day. He would take a rather circuitous route dropping issues off  as twos or threes or sometimes half a dozen at some of the small stops. I can recall too that the papers were never ever bound together : they were loose.

And that detail stayed with me. And was recalled by a conversation with a friend who was working for one of the local Melbourne papers. She was saying how she delivered the papers to the shops all bound and tied. And sometimes they would stay that way. And in the middle of that conversation,  I nearly said, “Untie them when you deliver them!” I didn’t realise why until later.

Even in Year 9, I didn’t know how much stayed with me.  Edmund Rice College were looking for  volunteers to edit the school magazine. My brother David and I stepped forward (or were nominated!). And the school got two newspapermen for free! Except we didn’t realise it at the time.  But somehow we knew what to do as well as what to change! We had a page on Anzac Day featuring the Ode of Remembrance.   I lobbied successfully for more of the poem to be published. It was then I realised that putting together a paper was hard work. But Dad did it every week! The strangest part was putting it together and then sending off the draft to the offset printers. It was surreal to send it away and have it reappear in another format without seeing it typed, set and printed for real.

Even, in the workforce, I didn’t realise how much Dad’s work had stayed with me. As a software developer and system manager, I would often rewrite procedures, correspondence and emails  as they were unreadable. What I found was that I could  summarise quite complex writing briefly and succinctly.  But all I was doing was what Dad did : sub editing his own copy. Perhaps somehow I had learned his art by osmosis. Ultimately I ended up writing training and technical documentation.

But I didn’t realise how much it stayed with me until the conversation with my friend. Which of itself led to a recollection of what my brother and I remembered from our childhood.
The irony was that this newspaperman wanted to become a journalist. But
due to various circumstances I didn’t have that opportunity. In truth, I don’t know what sort of journalist I would’ve made. But somehow it has led to this blog…