Sunday mornings

The sweet, earthy smell of my father’s car in the morning. It wasn’t until he quit smoking that I realised it was stale cigarette smoke that I had associated with his car. It’s light tan, leather seats squeaking as I fidgeted and moved around. From this distance, the morning light was golden, diffused as it shone through the tall gum trees lining our quiet, middle suburban court.

On Sunday mornings, his only day not working, I would join him in the car and we would drive to the milk bar to buy fresh bread rolls, light and fluffy, the Sunday paper and a 20 cent bag of mixed lollies for my siblings and me. I would lean up against his rough, hairy leg as I gazed up longingly at the glass counter, above my eye-line. Boxes of chocolate bars, bulging white paper bags of mixed lollies stacked high and beyond the shop-keeper cigarettes, batteries, cleaning products and other assorted dry goods.

Years later my brother ran a milk bar in its dying phase. Apparently, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Another ill-conceived get rich quick scheme. Late afternoon light filtering through the dusty, dirty windows and onto the sparsely stocked shelves. I wonder if my own two daughters look at this scene with any degree of awe.

Sometimes, we got to stop for petrol and I relished the task of filling out the figures in his log book. While he was filling up the tank with petrol, my small body would climb over the front bench seat and open the glove box. Pushing past the dusty box of tissues, I extricated the small red notebook , un-looped the elastic band which kept the stub of a pencil in place and waited for his announcement.

Chug chug. I watched the small balls spin wildly in the rush of red transparent fuel as it flowed out of the pump, through the hose and disappeared somewhere behind the smooth worn seats where my siblings usually sat. I smelled the petrol fumes that wafted in as dad cracked open the driver’s door. “65 litres. 76 cents per litre. 37,769 kms” With great care, I used my best writing filling in the columns, closed the book and returned it to the glove box.

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