Hemi did ride with the gang again, he couldn’t say no. He learned to say no soon enough when his dad found out about him riding with the bros again. Word gets around, it’s a small community, despite being geographically large. It might have been funny once, but not twice. Hemi’s dad was spewing and decided to educate Hemi the only way he knew how.
Hemi was trudging up the path to the house, after the bus had dropped him off. His dad was home, he wasn’t usually home, he was coming down the path fast towards Hemi. His eyes looked as though they were on fire, he was mad as. His fists clenched. He strode up and punched Hemi right in the mouth, knocking him to the ground, then gave him a kick in the guts as he lay there. Hemi felt his face explode in pain, his vision was suddenly filled with a white silhouette of his father’s knuckles against a black background as he was punched, as though he’d been hit in a cartoon. Didn’t feel like a cartoon though, he could already taste blood in his mouth, he was down on his side as his dad’s boot into his guts tookthe wind out of him. He looked up through tears in his eyes, his father standing over him, pointing at him.
Get up boy, you better learn to fight me’.
‘Why? Hemi cried though his bloody mouth garbled his words. He spat some blood out and wiped his mouth. ‘Why’? He asked again.
‘You think you can hang out with those fucken pricks and I won’t find out about it, the fucken local cop saw you! You want to choose them over your whanau boy?’
‘Then you fucken choose boy, you want to hang with them, you better learn to fight me, because you aren’t choosing both your family and those fuckwits, not in my house, one or the other boy, not fucken both, this is your only warning’.
Hemi felt suitably warned.
Guy didn’t see much of Hemi at school. They’d say g’day, but they moved in different circles now. They had different mates. They’d drifted apart even though they’d spent so much of their childhood together. One day in the main quad they bumped into each other, gave the standard greeting, said ‘G’day’
‘Tena koe‘ How’s it going Guy?’
‘Good, how are you going?
‘Good’, how’s Nicky?’
‘That’s good’, how’s your mum and dad?
‘Good’, what about yours?
That was a typical teenage boy conversation, when they caught up with someone they haven’t seen for a while. They did play together in the 1st XV in Guy’s second to last year of school though, Guy was number eight. Hemi left after failing University Entrance, not like he was going to uni anyway.
At that year’s prize giving, Hemi won the woodwork award. He had to go up on stage and get his prize from the headmaster. Hemi hated doing anything in front of other people, hated being the centre of attention. He’d also never won anything in his life before. He was called up and he made his way across the stage under the bright lights. All the kids and parents were applauding. Hemi trudged as though he was going to prison. He didn’t look the headmaster in the eye. He took his trophy and his prize, which was a book voucher of course, made his way back down off the stage and slumped in his seat. His mates each side of him nudged him in the ribs and raised their eyebrows at him. He looked down at his trophy, a cheap silver coloured double handled cup on a black plastic plinth, going to be hard to hide that from his dad.
Hemi had kept his woodwork projects at school. He’d kept his tekoteko carvings in the Maoritanga class, or at the native carving workshop. He was a brilliant carver. They’d sold some of his carvings in the shop adjacent to the workshop in town. Hemi’s mum and dad hadn’t come to the prize giving, because Hemi didn’t tell them he was getting a prize. He drove himself in the car, a Ford Escort Sport, which he’d bought with the money he’d earned working on the farm on the weekends and school holidays. He got paid to do stuff like hay, fencing, general labouring by the new owner after Guy’s family had moved away.
Hemi got home late at night. His mum and dad were sitting on the veranda, a bottle of crate piss each, smoking, as usual. The sudden violent lesson long forgotten, it wasn’t the first hiding Hemi had received, but it was both the worst, and the last.
‘Whatcha got there boy?’
‘Aw, got a prize for woodwork,’ Hemi muttered.
‘Shit, ay? Fucken hell, boy, that’s choice! Give us a look!’
‘What do you do in woodwork, boy? How come you never do any woodwork around here?’
His dad laughed. It was the first time his father had asked him about school, as he came home from the prize giving in his last year.
‘Just stuff, you know?’
‘No, I don’t fucken know. What sort of stuff, boy?’
‘Boxes, tool holders, cabinets, carvings, stuff like that’.
‘Where is all this stuff then?’
‘In the woodwork class at school, or in the Maoritanga room’.
‘What sort of carving boy?’
‘You can carve a tekoteko? Bullshit!’ his father exclaimed.
‘Nah, I’ll show you’.
Hemi went back to his car. He had one in a blanket in his boot, for when he ever got around to having this conversation with his dad. His father looked at Hine, his eyebrows raised as Hemi walked to the car. Hine shrugged, as curious as he was to see what Hemi was going to get. Hemi came back with something wrapped in a blanket. He unwrapped it and held it out for them to see. It was an amazingly detailed, faultless tekoteko, about two thirds of a metre tall. He handed it to his father who put down his bottle of beer, took it while lookingopen mouthed at Hemi. His mother started tearing up a bit,she would never have imagined her boy could create such a thing.
Hemi’s dad ran his hand over the sculpture.
‘Fucken hell Boy. You didn’t do this?’
‘Yeah, been doing it for a while’.
Hemi’s dad looked at him, eyes wide.
‘Fucken hell, boy. Why didn’t you say anything before?’
‘I thought you’d think it was dumb, a waste of time’.
Hemi’s dad shook his head as he looked down at the tekoteko, still brushing it with his hands. He kept his head down, because he had tears in his eyes. His father had been a master carver, but he himself was no good at that stuff. Didn’t have the skill or patience. He’d always felt a bit of a loser because of it, just to himself, felt like he’d let his family down, so he pretended not to care about all that ‘Maori shit’. Hemi’s dad kept his head down, looking off to the side a bit while he regained his composure. Can’t show any weakness or feelings in front of the boy or the Mrs.
He nodded, handed the Tekoteko back to Hemi. ‘Fucken choice, boy. Fucken choice’.
That of course was the highest praise he’d ever had from his dad. Hemi gave a swift upward nod of recognition. He nodded and forced a small smile to stop him giving a big one. He’d learned from his dad that you don’t show too much emotion. Hine sat there taking in the scene. A very rare father-and-son bonding moment, she wasn’t going to hurry to interrupt that.
‘Fucken choice alright, boy’.
Hemi slept pretty soundly that night, his tekoteko keeping watch from beside the bed.