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.

Iridology, Louise Robinson

The naturopath came highly recommended. As she pointed her long black lens at my eyes I gripped the bottom of my chair, like I used to do on roller coasters and boat rides. I hoped she might heal me, find the root cause. The doctors were no help. The essential oil burner bubbled and wafted sweet lavender through the clinic as she studied my results and bloods. Eventually, she cleared her throat.

‘Your results are quite unusual, Lucy,’ she said and reached out to pat my hand.

Sydney Harbour had whipped itself into a froth by the time I reached Cremorne Point. The wind made floss of my hair and iced my cheeks. So much for the relaxing walk. I called mum and explained I wasn’t feeling well (‘completely exhausted’), that I took the afternoon off (‘fuck work anyway’) and that I saw a naturopath (‘turns out I have adrenal fatigue’).

‘What’s adrenal fatigue?’ Mum asked.

‘It’s when your body’s over-stressed and in flight mode all the time. You’re burnt out from constant adrenalin, rushing around–so your adrenals give up.’

Ferries criss-crossed the choppy water as I walked. Couples hoping for sunset picnics packed up their baskets and frowned at the darkening clouds. I sat by the rocks at the harbour’s edge.

‘Then she did this iridology thing, analysing my eyes. It was strange. She said, you only see eyes like this in prisoners of war, refugees, torture victims, people who’ve been through serious trauma. Then she asked me, has something happened to you, Lucy? I’m guessing she’s just picking up on work stress, my bully-rich corporate environment.’

I could hear mum breathing heavily, and what sounded like a wet, muffled cough.

‘Mum, what’s wrong?’

‘Oh honey.’ She was crying. ‘There’s something I have to tell you.’

The harbour lashed waves against the rocks, frenzied and rough. Sea spray fell near my feet. There was no one else at the point now.


‘Your grandfather… I found out at the funeral, from your aunts… I didn’t know.’

‘Didn’t know what?’

‘I’m so sorry.’

‘What are you talking about?!’

‘He sexually assaulted your aunts. Joanne and Faye told me themselves. They’ve known for years what a grub he was. But you and your sister, all that time you spent with him when you were little. The school holidays, the trips to Wonderland… God, I’m furious! I could kill them for not warning me. And I’d definitely kill him if he wasn’t already dead.’ Mum let out a breath and sniffed. ‘I have to ask, did he touch you?’

‘You think that’s the trauma the naturopath saw?’

‘Yes.’ I looked up. The foreshore was a blur, my jacket and pants soaked through. I couldn’t see the ferries anymore. I could barely see anything.

‘I’ll have to call you back mum, it’s raining.’