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Bang! A wind-battered store’s screen door slams erratically against it’s swollen jam as I race my sister down the street. Dirt roads spill dust onto cracked, sand-caked sidewalks which glide beneath our bare feet in a fantastic blur, like a poor man’s treadmill. We weave in and out of the callous, sun-baked people wearing rag-tag hand-me-downs, some of which look like they have been dragged through a paper-shredder. Wisty and I are only mere children, both barely six years old, sprinting home from school. The heart of the town that is Auburn, South Wales, Australia is bustling with people, shanty stores sprint by us in a wild blur.

Ancient stores with crooked, faded, wooden sign; dust covered and mangled carpets; windowless frames; and lights that (on the off chance they do work) stutter and blink on and off more rapidly then a police wagon’s. Rough, working people man counters, stock shelves, repair roofs and other things, carry crates, uselessly sweep store fronts, and attempt to clean, along with the thousands of other boring chores. They’ve worked their entire lives- starting from nothing and ending with not much more- but are still the charismatic, sweet, persevering people we love and have lived our whole lives with. Pathetic excuses for sandals cling to callous and dirt-blackened feet and torn clothes embrace tired bodies. Tipsy hats cling to matted hair, they tip and slip so madly, that I fear they’ve had too much to drink.
Children like us are either African-American or are so dirt-plastered you fail to tell the difference. Dust adheres to our raggedy clothes and hair like annoying hitchhikers. We grab street poles and the sides of buildings as we both bolt home. We giggle and laugh and shout and yell. The friendly people we pass call after us playfully or we can hear their cheerful laughter echo behind us.
Our school is a massive building with haunting halls that echo child-like laughter and tiny voices. Smiley-faced adults stick stars and happy faces on our papers as we wander in and out of their brightly lit classrooms. We start in March and summer break lets us out in December. The building is gigantic, but we first graders only use the left wing.
As we get farther from town, the buildings space out, weedy yards surround tiny tin houses guarded by wooden sticks that love to pretend they are gates. Wind whistles loudly and sweeps knotted hair off of our hot foreheads, beaded with sweat. The air reeks of salt even though the ocean is almost two miles away and if you strain you can hear the crash and break of waves. Humid, smoggy, dust clogged miniature hurricanes whirl and swirl in the cramped space between the ground and the tippy-tops of our heads.
We pass though the mangled equipment that passes for a playground. Memories of magnificent adventures fill the air before us as we jump and catch the bars of a makeshift jungle gym. We twist and turn through it slamming small ankles on hot metal, but choosing to ignore it. Tapping the tops of boiling metal slides as we pass the swing set, ghosting past wooden planks seated on rusty chains and letting our bodies phantom them so they swing and dip all on their own, like the best kind of magic.
I reach out and grab my sister’s small hand. She spares a sideways glance at me. Her eyes are bright jade jewels of excitement, wide and shiny. It’s the most magical time of the day; the witching hours in between school letting out and dinner. The time that both Mommy and Daddy are home. A blip on the horizon, and my heart sings hallelujah.
“Look, Olivia!” Wisty shouts, her high sweet voice catching my ears. I nod and tighten my grip on her small hand as we both slow.
Metal poles strike the soft ground around a teeny cottage made of clay and brick, guarding our little sanctuary. A tin slab juts out over a dark wood door. Small windows with actual glass inside them litter the front and sides of the shack. Reddish walls and a brown plank roof. Mommy and Daddy wait inside for us, and that knowledge alone makes us giggles as we pass our makeshift gate. We wander through the knee-high, weedy grass, shifting itchy sacks with roped looped around our shoulders (backpacks) on our backs. We hit the stoop and step up onto the broken slab of concrete before our door. I grab the key that dangles from my neck and finger it as we approach the door. I hear Wisty’s heavy breathing and just now notice that I’m heaving and out of breath too. I shove the key in the shiny metal lock and turn the knob.
A mother’s excited shout from within the cottage as two small children slip past the door and into a whole different world means only one to the two euphoric six year’s old ears:
Home.





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