‘Jesus hate red.’ Synae was standing in Nyx’s paddling pool, hosing herself and her little cousin, Chenole.
‘Oh’. That’s my usual feeble reaction to these regular pronouncements. ‘Does he?’
‘Yep. He only like blue and white and black and pink.’
I thought I’d heard wrong, as I often do, especially when it’s the kids talking.
‘Who hates red?’
‘JESUS’, said with great emphasis. ‘He like yellow and black and orange and white. And green.’
‘Who told you Jesus hates red?’
I’ve met Synae’s mum. I waved to her, once, when she was at the end of our driveway with the next door kids. She walked up to me and her face was mean and hard – I’ve heard some of her life story since and I understand why.
‘My baby crying out for milk. You give me money for milk,’ she said.
I was really pissed off. I’d waved to her like another human being and she’d immediately treated me like a gadia. I didn’t know then that her baby is a one year old boy with Down Syndrome, but it wouldn’t have made any difference.
‘I’m not giving you money,’ I said. My Kununurra policy is to refuse firmly and clearly when I’m asked to give stuff or do things I don’t want to do, like give lifts into town. It doesn’t happen that often, but there’s no point trying to be polite. It worked - she walked off muttering about her crying baby and milk.
One of the tough young teachers told me later that she never goes alone to this woman’s house to ask why Synae and her brothers aren’t in school. ‘She’s the only one I’m scared of”, she said.
So, if Synae’s mother says Jesus hates red, I’m not going to argue.
‘You got no red,’ Synae said, looking at my blue and pink and white sarong. ‘Im won’t kill you.’
‘No, I haven’t’, I said, still not adding anything useful. But kill me? At last I understood. We’d been looking at the black sky racing towards us, and Synae had said ‘Rain coming.’ I realised that ‘rain’ meant ‘thunder and lightning,’ and storms are so close and powerful here that lightning strike is real.
‘I got no red. Chenole got red.’ She pulled at the little girl’s dress to show me the red flower pattern on it. ‘Take your dress off, Chenole.’ Chenole sat down in the pool – she was too young to know the danger she was in.
‘Oh, you mean lightning!’ was all I said. I’m working hard at not scoffing or gainsaying the odd things I hear. Who am I to move to this foreign country and say Jesus hates another colour?
Brian and I saw Jesus, or some higher power, looking at us, only two days ago. We were driving home towards a towering black sky in the south-east when it split from top to bottom, right in front of us. Behind the jagged rent in the clouds was a white hot light that glowed for a full two seconds before it shut with a monstrous bang.
I can’t remember whether we said ‘Fuck!’ or ‘Jesus Christ!’, but we said it in unison. The Universe had peeked at us – words can’t properly describe it.
The gods are closer here – in the rocks, in the sky, in the water – and it’s easy to believe their colour preferences are well known.