An Ohakune Story

Christine runs the local St. Vinnies, just round the corner from here, in Smith Street. She's been there for about a year, replacing the Chinese woman who was, I'm told, pilfering the stock, keeping the best of what came in for herself or her friends. Christine runs a tight ship and has increased prices and decreased stock, making the shop less of a wonderland of chaos but, no doubt, a better business. She's from Wanganui, the nearest city to the town, Ohakune, where I grew up. We've become good friends, although I haven't yet given her the copy of Luca Antara she wants, probably because I suspect it wouldn't be her kind of thing. On the other hand, refusing it is perhaps worse ... maybe I will before she goes back to En Zed for her niece's birthday at the end of the month. The other day she offered me a copy of Alan Duff's One Night Out Stealing (which I declined) and, in subsequent conversation, told me an Ohakune story. Her friend, who grew up there, said that every night her father came home drunk, he would sit his children along the mantelpiece and insist that they sing for him: five, maybe six kids, in a row, singing. He also used to rough up his wife, their mother. And then, one night, she, the wife, had had enough. She picked her husband bodily up and hung him by his jacket collar from the coat hanger on the back of the door. His feet could not reach the floor and his arms could not reach the coat hanger. He hung there until she deigned to lift him down. He never beat her again, nor did he ever again make the children sing for him from the mantelpiece. Her friend, said Christine, has the most wonderful voice and an astounding repertoire of old songs, word and tune perfect - but cannot often be persuaded to sing.

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