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So on this January morning we’ve been down to swim — Balaena Bay.

Children on floats, couples. The sun-drugged lounge on a changing-shed deck.

Chat with a friend. Rocky beach, the water green like a weed-eating fish.

And there’s Dave and Kathy. Standing by the outrigger, by the taupata.


Dave, Kathy and I, by the taupata, and Kathy, who tears her hair, says No.

And Dave says this MND, this bulbar palsy, and he looks at me. He’s been

having the tests. But there is no test for MND. You’ve got it when you’ve got it.

There’s just the cough when he eats, too-big a slur after a drink.


But this is Wellington. My boy plays soccer with another boy. We drive to the

games with his mum who works at the hospital, and she knows Dave’s case

and he’s clear, but that doesn’t mean – and she looks somewhere past my ear

and the lines round her eyes have settled to compassion.


And somewhere past my ear, back at Balaena Bay, with the outrigger

and the inflatables and the sunscreen and the shouts and the unreflecting green,

Kathy says No, and Dave says bulbar.


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