The sun jumped above the horizon and immediately cast its burning gaze over an ordinary Australian street in an ordinary Australian town. A hot dry wind whipped through the trees and whistled under the eaves. Air conditioners began to sing their daily buzzing song. In house after house, the occupants stirred from their restless slumber and began their preparations for a new day.
The third house from the end of the street was no different. The three occupants got out of bed and went through their usual routine in a similar way to most of the street's inhabitants. One significant difference was that one of the three came to breakfast entirely naked. Ten-year-old Sally Dunstan was the nudist in question. Her blue eyes sparkled beneath the fringe of her short blond hair. The purity of her fair skin was only marred (if you could call it that) by a fading inked pattern representing a chain of flowers that curled around her navel and then climbed up to the centre of her chest.
The complete absence of Sally's clothes was in direct contrast to both of her parents, each of whom was fully dressed.
Sally had adopted naturism as a result of spending the previous week with her friend Mona Puretti and the extended Puretti family at a cabin out in the bush. The Puretti family were all confirmed naturists and they were always active and noisy and emotional and affectionate. Their radically different lifestyle had forced Sally to start seriously thinking about her own life at home.
When Sally came into the kitchen, her father frowned when he saw that Sally wasn't wearing any clothes. He didn't say anything because he didn't know what to say.
"Good morning, Daddy," said Sally with a cheerful grin.
"Er!" said Sally's father.
She walked straight up to him and embraced him in a tight hug. Sally's father looked disturbed and held his hands out to the side. Sally let him go and stood back which was a relief to her father.
Then Sally turned to her mother, who immediately held her hands up as if to stop her daughter's inevitable approach.
"Good morning, Mummy," said Sally. "Did you sleep well?"
"Goodness! Sleep? Well..." stammered her mother. Anything else she might have been going to say was cut off when Sally ignored the outstretched hands and wrapped her mother in a tight embrace.
One of the waving hands came in and awkwardly patted Sally on the back of the head.
Then her mother put the heels of each hand against Sally's shoulders and pushed Sally lightly away. Sally didn't resist and stepped back from her mother.
Grinning cheerfully at her parents, Sally took a small towel and carefully draped it on her chair before sitting down. She rubbed her hands against each other and looked at the table.
"Mmm! Breakfast," exclaimed Sally. "Come on, sit down. It's breakfast time."
Both parents took their places and they all started serving themselves muesli and pouring milk into their bowls. Both parents poured themselves a cup of tea and Sally had a glass of juice. Sally chatted cheerfully, saying anything that came into her head, as her parents served themselves in silence. She took every opportunity to reach out and pat her father's arm or rest her fingers lightly on her mother's shoulder. Despite her best efforts, her parents basically ignored Sally and focused on each task as they did it, except that with each contact they would lean slightly away or twitch and brush nervously at the intruding hand.
Finally it was time to eat and Sally was forced to keep her hands to herself and stop her monologue in order to start eating her own breakfast. A silence fell over the table, broken only by the occasional tinkling as spoons lightly touched against bowls and the chink of teacups being lifted from, or replaced on, their saucers.
Sally looked back and forth between her two parents. They were each engrossed in the apparently serious task of eating their bowl of muesli and drinking their morning cup of tea. Sally looked down at her own half-eaten bowl of muesli, stirred it with her spoon and then looked back at her parents.
The silence was normal. Every meal in the Dunstan household was the same. Sally wanted to change that but she didn't know how. She sighed loudly and stirred her muesli again, making sure to clatter her spoon noisily against the sides of her bowl.
"Sally," scolded her mother.
"What?" chirped Sally.
Sally's mother opened and closed her mouth and then did it again. Finally her mother turned back to her muesli without saying another word.
Sally carefully took a spoon of muesli into her mouth and chewed it. She swallowed the last of her mouthful and gave her muesli another stir, but this time a little more quietly.
"Hey Daddy," said Sally. "Did you know that there are other breakfast foods? Apart from muesli, I mean."
Sally's father sighed and put his spoon down. He turned and looked at her but found the sight a little disturbing so he took his glasses off and cleaned them. Now that Sally was reduced to a pink blur he found that he could talk to her quite normally so he left his glasses off.
"Yes, I do know there are other breakfast foods apart from muesli," he said. "The Kellogg's company alone produces approximately 15 different trademarked breakfast cereals, along with a number of other food choices. But they are an American owned company so if you want to buy shares in Kellogg you will need a broker who specialises in purchasing shares on the US stock exchanges."
"Oh!" Sally blinked at her father. "I don't really want to buy shares in the Kellogg's company."
"Sanitarium also make breakfast foods, but they aren't a publicly listed company, so nobody can buy shares in Sanitarium," said Sally's father. "Sanitarium is entirely owned by a church. There are some smaller breakfast food companies that are publicly traded, though I wouldn't currently recommend any of them due to their current high levels of debt."
"I don't really want to buy shares in any food company," said Sally. "I only have twenty-seven dollars and sixty-five cents."
"Then why are you interrupting breakfast with questions about cereals?" asked her father.
"We always eat muesli for breakfast," said Sally. "I was thinking that maybe we could try a different type of cereal."
"We eat muesli," said Sally's father.
"Yes, but why?" asked Sally.
"Because that's what we always eat for breakfast," said Sally's mother, putting her spoon down so she could join the conversation.
"Yes, but why?" asked Sally.
"Because that's what we have in the cupboard," said Sally's father.
"Because we like muesli," said Sally's mother.
"Yes, but... " Sally stopped herself and sighed. "I was thinking that maybe next time we could try buying some other type of cereal, just to see whether we like it."
"We have a regular groceries order," said Sally's mother. "They deliver it each week. I don't like having to change the order. It increases the possibility of them getting it wrong if I change the order. I don't like it when they get the order wrong."
Sally took another mouthful of muesli and chewed it thoughtfully.
Sally's father, deciding the conversation was over, put his glasses back on, picked up his spoon and resumed eating.
Sally's mother picked up her spoon, frowned, and then put it down again.
"Why do you have twenty-seven dollars and sixty-five cents?" asked her mother. "That sounds like a lot of money for you to have."
"I have twenty-seven dollars and sixty-five cents because you gave me thirty-five dollars at Christmas and so far I've spent seven dollars and eighty-five cents. Also I found a fifty cent coin on the pavement."
"Goodness!" said her mother. "I hope you washed it."
"Of course I washed it," said Sally. "I wash all of my coins. You never know where they've been."
"Well, good," said Sally's mother. Not knowing what else to say about that, she picked up her spoon and resumed eating.
Sally chewed and then swallowed another mouthful.
"Daddy, why does a church own a breakfast food company?" asked Sally.
Sally's father looked at the spoonful of muesli that had been approaching his mouth and then sighed and put it back in his bowl. He took off his glasses again and turned to Sally.
"Churches are big business. Some of them have a lot of investments in a variety of fields. The Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing Company happens to be only one of the companies owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. I am unclear as to why they own it except to say that I gather it is highly profitable for them."
"Oh!" said Sally. "I was picturing the little church down by the park. Mrs Dunnelly from over the road said that she's on the committee that runs that church. She organises the church fete each year to raise money for the church. I was trying to picture somebody like Mrs Dunnelly deciding to buy a breakfast food company with the money from the church fete."
"I believe that the church building down by the park, and the land it is on, is owned by the Uniting Church of Australia. The building and the land would be worth quite a good deal of money. Mrs Dunnelly and her committee only manage the proceedings within the building," said Mr Dunstan. "According to their advertisements, the money from the church fete either goes to charity or is used to support their day-to-day activities. Now could we please end this discussion so that I can get back to eating my breakfast?"
Sally smiled cheerily at her father, which he saw as a smear of white in the otherwise mostly pink blob. He turned back to his bowl of muesli, put his glasses back on and picked up his spoon.
.... There is more of this story ...