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Eugene kept the shed doors locked

Mercedes Webb-Pullman


Big, brass, no-nonsense padlocks. Strong doors and jambs. He left nothing to chance with twelve growing sons who were always hungry.
Eugene ran the colours in a label printing machine. Six days a week he was first up in the morning, making breakfast and packing his lunch. Then he’d take Stasia a cup of tea in bed and hop on his bicycle to pedal six miles to the factory.
Stasia had a key to the shed’s padlocks. No one had ever been able to find its hiding place. She would bring out what was needed for the day, and the boys could glimpse rows of different coloured jars, red and purple, green and yellow, like a stained glass window glowing in the shadows.
Eugene stored all his smoked food there, too, and through the open door would drift the thick, rich scents of bacon, smoked sausages, smoked chicken and fish.
Each boy in turn was allowed to choose the fruit for dessert, and stood with finger outstretched, counting off the colours – peaches, pears, plums, quinces, cherries – so hard to choose. All the time the scents of food swirled around him, his mother impatiently loving nearby, the safety of the locks on his father’s food, his brothers envious just outside… years later, one day in an old Greek family store on a Sydney street corner he suddenly started crying, and couldn’t stop.


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