If Ruby Street was a taste of tranquil, middle-class suburban living, Erap Street in Soldiers Hill was a whole main course (even if it did lend itself a little too easily to being called “Crap Street”). Mum and my stepdad Aaron bought the house. BOUGHT. This would be the first and last time in my life that I would experience being in a family that owns property.
We had a red cattle dog called Rosie (because roses are red, and violets are blue, and before you ask actually yes, we also had a Violet: my grandparents’ blue heeler), an aviary with several budgerigars, and some guinea pigs, which fed on the scraps from the vegetable garden. No child-attacking cacti in this backyard, we grew actual sustenance. Like, lettuce and shit. I was given a BMX bike, and between the house and the pets and the vegetables and the bicycling, we were a picture perfect nuclear family.
By the time we would move out, Mum and Aaron would be going through a spectacularly unpleasant divorce, but for a time it was positively Family Ties-y.
It was so idyllic, in fact, that I could barely think of a story to tell about this address. But then I remembered the time I was nearly kidnapped.
As I was now in grade three, I very bravely walked myself to and from Barkly Highway State School every day. It was a twenty minute walk, but it was practically a straight line: head straight down Urquhart, turn right onto Bougainville, boom! You’re there. (On the off chance you ever find yourself living in Erap Street and needing to get to Barkly Highway State School, you’re welcome).
So there I was, walking my little self to school one day, when a Land Rover pulled over to the side of the road next to me. The woman driving the car leaned over, opened the passenger side door and said “hey little boy, would you like a lift to school?”
Now, to say my mum had a bee in her bonnet about Stranger Danger is a massive understatement: that woman has an entire swarm of bees in her bonnet, and the bonnet itself is made of wasps. I was taught, under no circumstances, should I ever, ever, ever, ever get into a car with someone I didn’t know. In fact, even if I did know the person, mum always said she would never authorize anyone to pick me up without telling me herself with her own mouthwords.
She also warned me that she may, one day, test me. She might actually organize for someone to come along and offer me a ride just to see how I would respond. Knowing this, and fearing mum’s wrath way more than I feared being snatched by some kid-murderer, I said “NO THANK YOU. I DON’T TAKE RIDES FROM STRANGERS.”
“It’s okay,” the woman answered, “your mum said to tell you it’s okay. And I have kids going to your school too!”
Nice try, lady. My mum had in fact told me specifically that if anyone ever said “your mum says it’s okay”, that they would be lying because she would NEVER tell anyone to tell me that. NEVER EVER. She would, if she absolutely had to, give me a secret codeword. So now I knew it wasn’t legit, and I scooched a little further away from the vehicle.
“NO THANK YOU.” I said, and kept walking.
“Oh, alright” said the woman, as she swung the passenger door shut and drove off, closing the chapter on what remains the laziest, most half-assed kidnapping attempt in the history of kidnapping.
I think one of the reasons mum was so strict on the Stranger Danger rules is because she knew what an easy sell I’d be. Truth be known, I really wanted to get in that car. The seats of the Land Rover were high and comfy looking, and it was a long walk to school, and I was really tired. Had she offered me any candy I would have been in there like a shot.
When I told mum about the incident, she was so, so proud of me, and SO MAD AT THE WOMAN. Her level of freaked-out-ness led me to the conclusion that it had not been a test after all. She was furious. I suspect, had she had access to a cape or mask or some kind, she would have gone full vigilante and spent her nights prowling the rooftops of Mount Isa, looking for that Land Rover. Except Mount Isa didn’t have any tall buildings: she would have looked ridiculous in a batsuit, perched atop the spinning Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket.