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seven. miss daisy

Continued from here:

Nick once spent two months living in a fruitpicker’s shack on the border of South Australia and Victoria, a necessary duty at age eighteen after his father reluctantly walked him to the door of the family’s Droop Street home in Footscray and pointed him west. Nick walked out of the gate with one bag in his hand and no hat on his head. A train ticket to Mildura in his pocket. Mother standing red-eyed in the shadows of the hall.

The bug-infested hessian rags that hung below the shack’s ceiling were an improvement on the roaches in the boarding-house room two streets behind the Windsor Hotel. Keeping them out of his ears while he slept only possible using camphor oil and cotton wool.

There were fifteen language schools in the six city blocks Nick had been sent to cover. He had been to eleven and the city was getting to him, home or not. Melbourne should have been built somewhere else – he said in a Brunswick bar two nights ago – like Sydney. The jibe wasn’t taken too kindly by the few who heard it.

Miss Daisy, the school principal and as prim as her name, sat politely erect behind her ordered desk as Nick settled into an uncomfortable wooden chair.


‘He was very polite,’ Miss Daisy remembered, ‘and left me a lovely note.’

‘To where?’


‘When was that?’

‘Last December, I can look it up.’

‘Thank you. How many languages did he teach?’

Miss Daisy gestured at a framed citation hung on the wall behind her.

‘Half of those, most of his classes were very popular.’

Nick reached into his coat pocket.

‘Do you mind if I make some notes?’

Miss Daisy smiled.

‘It’s the only way to learn, young man.’

‘What were the unpopular languages?’

‘Just his Russian class, really, he only had one student. It was unusual.’


Miss Daisy looked away, seemingly lost for words.

She turned back to Nick.

‘She was an Australian girl.’

A pause.

‘And she was pregnant.’

Miss Daisy watched Nick write a word then circle it.

‘And she attended all of his Russian classes?’

‘Yes. They seemed to like each other’s company.’

‘What was her name?

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