Extract from Rain chapter 5
Christmas Day, 1966 Michael would have slept longer, but the familiar stench of potato cakes had exacerbated his alcohol-induced nausea. He loathed the colourless fritters, for their greasy pungence, the destruction of his taste buds, and for what they represented—a childhood subsistence on a determinate nutritional regime in which the edible tuber ruled supreme, and not just any potato but the humbling Pontiac, the cheapest of the cheap. At Christmas, the household budget was massacred for a sweet one, hungered for because its orange glow brought to life an otherwise insipid plate. No one yearned for the habitual emptying of the Heshian potato sacks as it promised new clothing for whoever was next in the clothing queue.
John, an older brother, suffered many a queue ousting as punishment for the improper use of the family's brown gold. The inaugural offence involved a galvanized nail and a hammered piece of copper wire inserted into a potato to generate electricity. While the experiment was a success, the clothing line skipped to the next in the queue, and John was served the electrocuted vegetable for dinner. His hide, indelibly imprinted with a thin metal cord, forced him to savour the shrivelled remains in an upright position. Undeterred, he used more potatoes for spudzookas, which occurred whenever his name rose to the top of the Heshian clothing line up.
Michael still slept on the front veranda in Park Lane as he had done as a young boy—same bed, same position, and same threadbare sheets. The house had two bedrooms that occupied the heart and centrum of the house with doors to each opening left to the living room left, and onto a sleepout to the right. At the end of the sleepout, a small bathroom with a basin and a tub cleaned all eight children in one batch of lukewarm water. Next to the bathroom there was a room of immaterial size that housed the icebox, potatoes, and everything else. When Michael was born in 1942, it was converted into a bedroom for Alice, Michael's sister, and the newborn, and comprised of a bed, marriage chest, a discoloured white wicker bassinet, and the icebox, all cordoned off by a rose pink shower curtain over the entry.
The master's chamber, the bedroom toward the front of the house, was out of bounds, and any child who dared to step on the chipped, geometric-patterned Linoleum lived long enough to learn that crying worsened the punishment. The three youngest boys shared the second door-less, internal bedroom. John Senior had removed the two doors to ensure its occupants did not enjoy a sense of seclusion. One of the doors was used to replace the outhouse door that had fallen off its hinges with dry rot.
The two older boys slept on the sleepout in beds lined head to toe along the exterior fibro wall. Alice's bed once headed the line-up, positioned outside the master bedroom to enable interminable fatherly vigilance. The area remained a void of exposed lino when Alice was upgraded to the storeroom since neither George nor Harold desired the location. The space remained vacant for a mere eight months—as soon as Michael could walk, he and Alice were ousted from the food locker, with Alice returned to her paramount position at the summit of the bedding queue, and Michael began his impervious occupation of the new verandah.