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Sarah Marx and Hingor Wong and me went for a walk one long weekend Monday up and over Knocklofty to Kangaroo Valley. We went far enough to be able to just see the roof of my place deep down among the trees. By the time we were climbing back up Knocklofty from the valley it was nearly dark. The moon came out in soft clouds and in the north the river looked like raspberry cordial spilt across chocolate.

All the twinkly lights came on. You could see the bright bars of light out at what Sarah called the Elfin Racetrack.

When we came over the top of Knocklofty and down a steep track that we had to go slow on Hingor gasped, 'Monte Carlo,' and I didn't know what she meant except the Derwent River was a hazy purple and the lights were snap-frozen fireworks and we could see towns and suburbs between distant hills. Boats slept like seagulls on the still water near the casino.

It was like the photos a wilderness photographer would take if she stumbled into fairy land.

By the time we were coming down Forest Road towards Sarah's place (where we were staying) it was night.

And Sarah said, 'Imagine if this was 200 years ago and we were aboriginals coming out of the bush and through a time warp. What would we think all this was?'

'Except that I'd be in China 200 years ago,' said Hingor.

'Well, I suppose I'd be in Ireland, then,' said Sarah, 'or Germany.'

'And I'd be in South Australia,' I said.

Sarah made a surprised sound which she turned into a cough. 'I always thought you were a Tasmanian aboriginal. A Palawa.'

'Nope. I was born on a mission in South Australia. Then I came to Tasmania. Then an island in Bass Strait. Back to South Australia. Then my mum and dad adopted me and we came to Tasmania--which was the first time for them.'

'How confusing,' laughed Hingor.

'It sounds Oirish to me,' said Sarah

'Let's pretend, anyway,' I said. 'It's two hundred years ago. We're aboriginals coming out of the bush at dusk. We step through a time warp into 1994. And what do we find...?'

It was spooky--surreal-- walking down Forest Road. Which was like a black river of rock. A sliding solid beach tipped up steeply, far from water. Was it safe to walk on? Lights were everywhere. It was like all the stars in the sky had turned to campfires and had fallen to earth. Huge fat animals with sleek fur slept on the sides of the black beach. You could see through the top part of the animals. Perhaps they were spirits. Then we heard a shoosh-sh-sh noise and, far down in the distance, we saw two bright lights that looked like eyes. The sound got louder and the eyes got closer and brighter and bigger. One of the sleeping animals was awake. It didn't run but slid along the black beach thing, like a fish swimming along the ground. Perhaps it was the spirit of a giant fish.

Before we became truly terrified the spirit turned aside and disappeared and we were left looking at the strange lights and the coloured rocks that looked like caves with yellow fires in them. It was so strange we could not put words to it in our minds and we stalked down the hill in silence. We heard a strange animal calling, 'Yip, yip, yip.' And a bird flew over our heads. But there were no animals we recognised and many of the trees that grew around the rocks and caves were strange.

We gradually became aware of the roar in the distance. Like devils at night only softer. Like the snores of a colony of seals. Or the night time rustle of a penguin rookery when it's disturbed.

At last we saw a human being. Though we couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman. It was big and strode towards us. It's feet looked like wallaby's feet only huge. It was wearing clothes like wet bark.

We dived into some bushes and waited till it passed, wishing we had our spears.

When we came out, Hingor said, 'Perhaps the cave rocks are shelters for the people or the animals.'

Sarah said, 'Perhaps we have died on the mountain and have come to the place of the dead.'

I said, 'This is a dream and we will wake up soon.'

Then Sarah said, 'I have a strange feeling that we should follow this path...' and she led us into what Hingor and I really knew was Garibaldi Place and soon we were walking up a path and stepping right into one of the bright cave rocks. We had been pretending so hard that we were actually trembling with fright until Sarah's mother said, 'Where on earth have you girls been? I was about to call the police.'

But that was how Hingor and Sarah got to know that I am a very mixed up person in some ways. With regard to my ancestry, that is. And Hingor and Sarah are so nice (although Sarah gets in a temper sometimes) that since that evening we have shared a lot of things about all our pasts.

My mum says I don't know how lucky I am to have friends like that. How they put up with my moods, she doesn't know.

Then she says she is so lucky to have a daughter like me who shares everything with her. Which makes me feel guilty because I haven't told her yet the biggest family secret of all. Although I can't believe that she and dad haven't guessed. That their son, my big brother Marcus, is gay.

So, to stop myself feeling guilty I start my daily song and dance routine. I go to my bedroom and put on my leotards and tutu (don't laugh) and my autographed Madonna T-shirt and a CD and I dance so hard I nearly vomit. I can do the whole routine for every Madonna videoclip that has ever been shown. When a favourite bit comes on I burst into song. I know all the words of course.

Though I still haven't worked out why she's called Madonna. My parents are catholic and they get very uncomfortable about it. I hear them arguing. My dad, Cullen, says the rosary afterwards (which I have never heard another man doing except a priest). Hail, Mary, full of grace...

It makes me feel guilty but I know that the sex pot Madonna has nothing to do with the Virgin Mary. I mean, Madonna could hardly be a virgin, could she!

When I'm in front of the mirror I also practise acting. I stare at myself with an expressionless face for minutes then suddenly burst into laughter and then into tears. Mum says I can turn it on and off like a tap. You'd think I would want to get on the stage as soon as possible but I also get embarrassed easily which gets mixed up with a bad mood I can't control and then this stubborn thing inside me stops me performing in front of other people. Although the main part of me wants to, desperately. So for years I did not go in any plays or musicals at school. In fact, I never would have performed in front of any one if it hadn't been for Ms Rubenach (who is the best teacher in the world) and Mrs Sanderson (who is second best) who both convinced me to go in this year's 'mega production' (Ms Tozer calls it) of The Roar of Love. I played the part of Lucy. I will never forget it.

But it is a problem, me being uncontrollably moody. Though it's only when it suits me, Dad says.

And it doesn't help when some of the boys pick on me. When they found out I was aboriginal most of the kids were really interested. Almost envious, really. But three boys from Mr PB's class started to pick on me. Tara Tart they used to call me, until after the meeting, when Mr PB went absolutely ape! I mean, Mr PB has never been known to raise his voice in the history of the school. But he did this time.

'Karnyalimenya,' he said. 'The name of our school. It's an aboriginal name, for Christ's sake.' (We had never heard him swear before, either. Or take the Lord's name in vain as my father would say.)

I was so embarrassed all I wanted to do was to forget about the whole thing but at the end, after a long silence, the boys who had been making my life a misery for months apologised and I realised that they meant it. I mean they were shocked. They had truly seen the error of their ways.

Since then I have gone on to do a few things at school that are about being aboriginal. I have even had help from other aboriginals and one day, Ms Rubenach took some of us to meet Aunty Ida. Who didn't want to be interviewed. So I interviewed a friend of hers (who is my friend now) called Kiunta.

Another day Ms Rubenach took us to Bedlam Walls.

And I did a video version of Ms Sanderson's Kanna which was part of our school's end of year gathering.

It's funny, because finding out about the past is like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle, in a way, because there are so many pieces to fit together. Except, of course, not all the pieces exist any more.

In fact, I must be a bit weird in my likes & dislikes because although I love drama and singing and stuff, and I like jigsaw puzzles (which I sometimes do with Amy at her place), most of all I like fact puzzles.

Useless facts is my passion. Like, no, I won't give any examples now, because if I do I won't be able to stop. If you like discovering useless facts, perhaps you can try my tough questions.

If you dare.

 


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