The five second rule

Mum reckoned if anything that got dropped got picked up within five seconds it’d be alright. It started, I reckon, with spat-out dummies. Lollies, and food in general, followed. A quick wipe and right as rain. At footy games she took the same pick-’em-up-quick approach. ‘You’ll be right, Matty. Up you get. Keep goin’, Mate.’ And on the morning after my diagnosis she was on my doorstep, all smiles. ‘No point gettin’ down about it,’ she said. ‘I’m taking you shopping.’ The five second rule again. Christ knows – I don’t even like shopping.


After ten years even a strong marriage can become strained. That was no excuse. I found myself interstate on business, staying in that part of town where women can be bought on street corners. She seemed a little lost among the hard-bitten, the brazen and the desperate.

She told me where to drive. By the time we got there her words were slurring, she was having trouble focusing. It’s nothing, she said. I let myself believe her.

Later I offered to drive her to hospital. She didn’t want to go. I took her instead to a flat at the back of a rundown block, opened the door with her key, laid her on the couch and left. I told myself I didn’t want to get mixed up. Besides, I’d offered. Hadn’t I?

Next morning the radio reported an attack. A young victim. A man being sought. I had no courage for admissions. I could have helped. I could have told police what I knew. But I flew home instead.

Before I could knock, my wife had the front door open. She was clasping Rebeccah tight to her. ‘What have you done, Leigh?’ she said. ‘What have you done?’


There was nothing Col liked more than a good situation. Something he could throw himself into. Make a difference. Like this mum here. She’s got a kid screamin in the back and she’s totally boxed in by 4×4’s parked close either side. Col props his bike on its stand and wanders across, waving in the woman’s direction. He walks to the back corner and indicates how much space she has to work with, which isn’t much. He brings his hands together as she edges back. Just before she touches the big car’s bull bar he whistles. Holds his palm out like a traffic cop.

As he walks to the front corner he makes a face at the littly. It turns the kid’s screams to gigglin. All in a day’s work. He repeats the hand gestures first at the front then again at the rear. Almost done. He flashes a thumb’s up and positions himself again for the final maneuver. You’re right. Slowly now. Keep it comin. Keep it comin. You’re good.

Metal and plastic splinter. The passenger mirror shears clean off. Col smiles toothlessly as he recovers his bike. Bloody genius. Nothin’s as sweet as a good situation.