The Turtle and the Knife, Bruce Cherry

Sunlight rakes the kitchen as I wash leftover hummus bowls and glasses of flat beer tails. My head hurts.

Tapping sounds from the balcony. Peter is out there, smoking.

I know he’s upset, but today I don’t have anything for him. I am hung-over.

The glasses are lemon fresh and I am rinsing suds from our big kitchen knife when the tapping becomes a thudding. Peter is kicking the makeshift balcony table. I wash a ladle. I am scrubbing a plate when the balcony door bangs open.

‘Stop. Making. Noise.’

His voice is different.

I freeze. The plate in my hand drips into the sink.

He is having an episode.

‘Okay,’ I say. ‘Okay, Peter. It’s me, Martin.’

I slide the plate into the dish rack.




He steps towards me. I glance at the axe we have hanging on the kitchen wall, in case the Mahabharat raid us and we need to smash the hard-drives.

‘Okay,’ I say.

I back towards the lounge room door. I wonder where Donatello is.

Donatello is a turtle a friend gave us. Donatello gets more kicks than she should because we let her roam the apartment. I do not want to step on her. I watch Peter.

‘STOP MAKING NOISE!’ shouts Peter and grabs the big kitchen knife from the dish rack. It flashes in the sunlight. This is like a film, I think, then I’m ducking backwards as Peter takes a swipe at me with the knife. I stumble into the lounge room and around the table I built a few months ago.

Peter follows me, shouting. He’s speaking his own language and I can’t understand any of it. My eyes are on the knife, but as I’m backing away I’m trying to scan the ground at my feet. Where is Donatello?

Peter comes for me.

We circle the table like a nursery rhyme. I am in my head and out of it, wondering where the damned turtle is, how to get the knife. I grab one of the couch cushions and we do another lap of the table.

There! Donatello is scooting out from under the bench. If we do another round of the table one of us is going to step on her. I make a break for my room.

Bad idea. A dead end, except for the second storey window.

Peter rages through my door, knife first, and I bring the cushion down on it.

We scuffle.

I am much bigger than Peter. I wrestle him onto my bed and I hold him down as gently as I can while I say, ‘I am Martin. You are Peter. You are gentle. You are kind,’ over and over.

He fights me but then he sobs once and is suddenly asleep. I collapse on him.

Donatello pushes her arduous way into my room. I watch her until she disappears under my bed.

Beneath me, Peter stirs.

‘Mama?’ he asks.

‘Yes, mama is here,’ I say.

We cry.