You may take notes and there will be a written exam at the end of class.
"Yeah, but it's still a good idea to go to school and get an education."
"But they'll all laugh at me in school, Unca Bob."
"They don't know you. When they get to know you, they won't laugh any more." That he's damned sure of! "You know how all the tourists stare at us when we go into town. It's the same thing, only foreign adults are too embarrassed to laugh so they stare instead. Now put on your panties and we'll go." Bob's only afraid that she will kill anyone who laughs at her, "Remember what I said, no hitting unless they've got a weapon on you, and definitely no killing."
The small white, half covered motor cruiser, made its putt-putt bee-line to the long dried out timber wharf. The practice had been to replace the wharf after every cyclone, if there was anything to replace remaining that is. However, about ten years ago the local town council combined with the local indigenous council, which is nigh on the same thing, decided not to replace it unless the State paid for it, as it is almost exclusively for tourist use, which is a State Government initiative. There is absolutely no income made locally in tourism. The local's opinion is almost as one, that the last tourist they saw will be the most welcome. The tourist's money all goes to the foreign tourist companies, who won't let their trusting passengers buy from anyone locally, and the only local manufactured curios the tourists might be interested in, are exotically shaped bongs.
For the last ten years, even the strongest blow hasn't affected the wharf, even without any maintenance. Bob Fischer is the only non-tourist to ever use it on any regular basis, and it is he, and his five year old niece Tilly, who are on the way into town from Garrigeld Island.
Garrigeld Island is about twenty nautical miles off the coast, roughly thirty seven kilometres, surrounded by waters so deep that the thing that makes this area so attractive for tourists, coral, won't grow there. He hasn't told anyone else, that the thing which makes this area least attractive, for the ten months of the year not in the wet season anyway, the stingers, follow the currents away distant from the island to come in right along the coast near Bender Bay, right where the school and township is. The island receives none of the lethal little things at all.
Bender Bay is not officially, as such, a gazetted town under State or Federal government auspices so much as a locality. A fine distinction, but it keeps government authorities away from bothering them.
Garrigeld Island itself, above water, is about fifteen hectares in size, where the sole beach is, has about a hundred metres of island bedrock lightly covered with pure white coral sand of talc consistency, mainly underwater, facing out to sea. It is too shallow, for the main part, for deeper draught ships to approach. For the remainder facing the coast and north and south, except for a very short steep slope, it is about another kilometre below surface level and almost vertically straight down.
Tilly was taught to swim by her Uncle Bob before she was able to crawl and had never been stung. An occasional deep sea shark or sea snake come near but they have their own strategies in place to defend against them. Even Bob was surprised when two year old Tilly dragged a medium sized white tipped reef shark up the beach for her Uncle to skin and cook for dinner.
Sea snakes tend to not to attack something which hasn't attacked them and was larger than they. Actually, initially young Tilly wasn't larger than most of them, but she most certainly was more vicious than they were, and Tilly has made the point to the cook, that she does not like the taste of snake. Just occasionally, Bob will cook one just for himself as his own little luxury.
Even Bob won't touch the Moray eel though, not without a very long pig sticker but they're inedible anyway so they thrive around the island. That is unless Tilly gets a bee in her bonnet and euthanises the local population. She uses the remains to bait her Unca Bob's lobster pots, his only form of income to the knowledge of the Department of Taxation.
The only clothing that they both wear when around the island, is a sheath-knife draped down the back of their neck, and that only when they go swimming. These are stored by tying to a coconut palm near the place where it is best, or really, most convenient, to enter the water.
Getting clothing of any type on her to go into town, for any reason, is tantamount to declaring war. Bob only agreed to the dress and panties because Helen sewed them him/herself, tomorrow it's going to be shorts and a tee-shirt no matter what Helen thinks is proper raiment for a young lady, then he wouldn't get the unanswerable question, to Bob anyway, "Why's I gotta wear two bits of clothes, Unca Bob?" Because ya gotta, doesn't cut it with Tilly or Bob, and that it's a social nicety and norm, means nothing to someone who has to talk to maybe four people a week at most, none of whom wear clothing, as on the island itself they don't use such social niceties at all of any kind. Helen uses his/her time on the island to escape from the rat-race (?) of Bender Bay, population-eighty three-ish - while Rachael Hartley, the town's sole school teacher, uses her time away from the school having her stress levels lowered, even if that is in the middle of the kitchen floor or in the middle of the beach or half way down the tilting floor/ramp or, well, that was last Friday after she finished work while Tilly tried to make a pot of tea for Bob, negotiating around them, with Bob being sort of preoccupied at the time. The angel makes a mean cuppa.
Bob had to repeatedly warn Tilly, not to go swimming in Bender Bay. As much as the water is her natural habitat, so it is the stingers, the Irukandji jellyfish's, natural habitat, and they were there first.
Here is where the initial problem struck. Tilly has only been to the mainland maybe ten times since she was born, and as they walked towards the old rusted tin lean-to shed that the State Government had designated as a school, Tilly was holding her Uncle Bob's hand and gawking around as if she was in the big city, "Where do ya wan' me ta go afta school Unca Bob? Where's Unca Helen's place Unca Bob? Is ya takin' the time to scratch Rachy's itch while you's 'ere Unca Bob? Do ya think..." The reason she so rarely comes into Bender is because she hates crowds and all those smelly cars where there is, on the average usually about five, though only two usually working at any one time.
This is an author's note, so go with the flow because he's not very bright. Young Tilly's speech style is not because she's stupid, or is half black, or even because she's only very young, as those are preconceived biases without any foundation in fact. Her manner of speech syncopation is because that is exactly how Bob Fischer speaks, to every nuance, and shortened verb and noun and omitted syllable. An early life without any education had tattooed into his speech patterns the gutter talk of his youth, and he himself had no idea until he realised that Tilly spoke that way in perfect mimicry.
For an example in modern 'high' literature, consider Willy Garvin in Peter O'Donnell's, Modesty Blaise, and he can write; don't laugh, O'Donnell is PAID to write, albeit, these days mainly comics, are you? To Fischer's intelligent mind, an education will teach Tilly the local manner of speaking like everyone else, and henceforth I'll try to place such verbal diarrhoea into, English, and how she is spoke. Isn't it amazing how, with slight dialectic differentials in written English, US American's speak the same as the English, as do South African's and Australian's. But not Texan's which is odd; but as they say, they are superior to everyone else. Like the English Royal family even though I can't understand a thing Phil the Greek says. Sorry for this synaptic blink. We go onward, ever onward.
Bob formally introduced Tilly to the teacher of the kindergarten to sixth grade, Ms Hartley, and the complete complement of the school's students. There are fifteen, newly starting kindergarten children; the largest in many years, of the now, ninety odd strong, mixed, Primary School. The school infrastructure was comprised of a single classroom made of washed up or blown in rusted corrugated iron, which is plentiful locally. He saw some once blown in from a series of new houses, marked, as delivered to Rockhampton and that's a thousand klicks away south, after one cyclone. The room had been added on and improved by the local adult population, until now it's the size of a medium sized factory, and still with only one teacher.
Rachael Hartley arrived up here from the state capitol, Brisbane, five years before for her student-teacher class/pupil practical experience, and the head office kept making excuses for her remaining in the position. After the first year, they decided to pay her full wages at least, so she wouldn't make waves. She hasn't requested more teaching staff or better buildings or facilities as it would have interfered with her teaching practices.
She, long ago, decided not to inform them that she would have paid them for her to stay here. She always gets a giggle that the position is considered a hardship posting, therefore she receives what amounts to almost double what she would have earned in the city, and she had almost all her expenses paid for by a grateful local populace (Bob and Helen, et al). Her wages were automatically paid into a bank branch which is one of many represented in the local post office in Cooktown, where she had never been other than during in transit, and had little use for the money up here anyway.
In the deep north of Queensland, being single and 'pretty', she never had to buy a meal or pay rent, where in Brisbane she couldn't even get a date. For the local definition of, 'pretty', see -'she has genitals and is under eighty', which makes her an open target for poaching by anyone else with genitals, gender and ethnicity undefined, no matter her marital status or appearance. In most outsiders' opinions, Rachael had a body to die for and a head, paper bags were made for. Ms Hartley and Tilly are old friends as she and Old Bob Fischer have been lovers since the day after that she arrived in town on his boat (on her first night she stayed on his island from which her hymen was an early casualty) and all he was interested in her for, was her personality and that she enjoyed sex. Sex was Rachael Hartley's undying obsession being a newcomer to the practice when she moved here, and took up residence with Bob Fischer on weekends and days off. Weekdays she resided in a room behind Helen's café restaurant, where she helped serve at night and ate her meals with Helen.
Face had to be kept though, even if everyone in town knew of their relationship. Tilly thinks it is all funny, as this is only the fifth time she had ever seen Rachael with clothes on, and Tilly considers Rachael her surrogate aunt. They had already had this discussion so Tilly already knows her place in the general scheme of things, even if the other kids didn't.
"Tilly Garrigeld, sit down, no, on your chair. Robert, leave Tilly and Margret alone as I will tell you right now, you will regret it. Year six, have you finished off those long division I gave you? Stephen and Roy come and show me your results on the blackboard. Heinrich, throw that straw through the window, wake up boy, all the walls are windows and you're not allowed to spit darts. Now, Fanny, when you go home, can you ask Dad if he'll paint the wall again in blackboard paint as I can see the signwriting coming through again. Broken arm, eh! Tilly, ask your Uncle -- or this would be better -- ask Uncle Helen at little lunch, at least he's reliable. Sit down Tilly! Cecil Papuckowski, leave Tilly's dress alone. Junior did you get these long divisions right? What do you mean, what's long division? Now kindergarten, show me your page with the letter little 'a' on it, come on, from the front to the back desk please. Tilly, sit down until it's your turn."
Tilly had never had to sit down longer than the time it takes to eat meals before, her Uncle Bob expected the main meal of the day eaten seated. Hyperactive isn't the word, let's take a hat around and see if there is a word for running on the spot, on top of her seat so she could say she was still on her seat. For the little letter 'a', Ms Hartley had written all the little and big letters on the board in wet chalk the year she moved here and only asks them to write the letter 'a' on their first day, same as all the older classes on their first day. Tilly, who was raised by a man without an education all her life, wrote every letter, little and big, as perfectly as her teacher had on the board, ten pages each, and then being bored, the seat took another pounding. She is now doing handstands on her seat and 'Junior' Papuckowski has finally stopped fidgeting and become fascinated by Tilly's lack of underpants.
Six months later Tilly was doing the third class's work, easily included with the other five surviving third class pupils, and the rest of the third class kids were working through their curriculum extremely quickly, finishing the examples on the board so they could keep up with Tilly. Ms Hartley concentrated on everyone else, but has given Tilly the syllabus of fourth form to learn in her spare time while Tilly also tutored twelve year old Cecil 'Junior' Papuckowski, on the second class work he was finding a struggle. Twelve year old Cecil 'Junior' Papuckowski did exactly everything Tilly Garrigeld told him to do, without hesitation. In a way, it was fortunate that Ms Hartley had a vastly smaller class size by then and an apprentice teacher in Tilly, always ready to take class. They all listened to little Tilly Garrigeld without any argument, the alternative she gave them was ... unpleasant, to say the least.
As we speak though, the week Tilly began kindergarten, Bob Fischer was forty-nine years of age, six foot five or one point nine six metres tall, plain looking as far as most men see him in appearance, women see him differently as they seem to automatically recognise his animal magnetism. He was built with a muscularity which had never seen a set of weights but he rippled when he walked and was absolutely free of any personal vanity. His nose is too meaty for his rangy lupine face, his mouth large with full sensual lips while his eyes, perpetually seemed to be looking at the world surrounding him with amazement and innocence, are the colour of the sunlit Coral Sea, but that seems to alter with his mood like the Sea itself. He thinks his ears are too big and was the only person to notice that perceived fault.
His hair, the feature everyone always notices first, reached to below his bum cheeks to his upper thighs, in a ponytail, and hasn't been cut since he moved to the island twenty eight years before after being demobbed from the army. It is either pure white or sun bleached; even he doesn't know which, so you can take your pick. It looks startlingly luminescent against his sun blackened skin. Tilly and he have the same hair and skin colouration but she has had only five years to achieve the effect. She was born with the perfect skin colour, that of a blend of her parents', and her white blonde hair is a faithful genetic reminder of her mother. Her father, who was neutered by her 'Aunt' and her Uncle with much rancour, was as black as one could have been, her mother was the opposite perfect Scandinavian blonde facsimile.