‘You mean Santa doesn’t come here at all?’ Belinda’s bottom lip quivered. She gazed at
her sari clad cousin in concern.
‘No, but don’t worry. Alana will bring you some presents while you are here.
She is a Deva who lives in the forest and brings presents on Solstice Eve — if you have
been good. You have been good?’ Cloud asked anxiously, “Cos if you haven’t, some of
your bad might rub off on me and 1 have been waiting forever for a new bike.’
I’ve been good for Santa.’ Belinda was still having trouble with the concept. ‘Are
you sure that Alana will bring me presents. Maybe Santa will come to me and Alana to
you.’
‘Kevin says Santa is a Nakra-nism. Kevin says he is a northern hemisphere
winter spirit. That’s why he dresses up in warm clothes. Kevin says we are in the
southern hemi-thing here and we are having a summer solstice.’
Belinda still couldn’t get used to the way that Cloud spoke of her parents by their
given names. She remembered in time not to think “Christian names” having already
earned her cousin’s scorn
‘Tell me about Alana.’
‘Alana is a Deva, Like a kind nature spirit. She is very very old but she looks
young. Kevin says she’s got a franchise from Santa to look after children at Solstice.
Billy Rainbow says Alana is really his mum, but that is silly. Why would Billy’s mum
give us presents. Billy thinks he knows everything just ‘cos he’s ten.’
‘Boys!’ said Belinda. ‘Charlie Brown, back home in Melbourne, says that Santa is
really my Dad. How stupid can you get. My dad has been gone two Christmases already
and Santa still came.’
The two little girls became immersed in serious discussion of the metaphysical
implications of belief systems.
‘But we still get presents?’
‘No worries!’
Their mothers were busy beneath the stretched tarpaulin of the outdoor kitchen.
Sky, Belinda’s mother, was becoming reaccustomed to the name long since changed to
Sally in Melbourne. She looked across to her sister, Storm, who was engrossed in cutting
up pawpaws. The drone of the mantra she was chanting, the Sanskrit syllables flowing
fluidly in their endless cycles, was not conducive to conversation and she found herself
wondering yet again what madness had prompted her visit.

And how would she cope with Mother when the time came. The matriarchal
Hippy Queen, and her entourage, were due this afternoon, coming from god-knows-
where in the deep bush country where she had established New Atlantis. She bent to her
task of scraping the pulp of a pile of locally grown avocados into a huge bowl, and
thought of her friends in Melbourne. Doubtless they too were engaged in senseless tasks,
worrying themselves sick on how they were going to prepare a hot cooked meal in
midsummer, the cottonwool snow and sprinkled frost dust mocking their sweat-shiny
faces.
Still, the kids seemed to be getting on all right. Sky had been expecting all sorts
of difficult questions about the bizarre life style they had encountered but Belinda seemed
to accept the differences quite readily. Kids are amazing, she thought, they’ll adapt to
almost anything. She herself was finding it more difficult. It had been a long time since
her hippy childhood and the game seemed to have changed. Now it is all New Age,
aromatherapy and crystals, Astrology and Channelling. Even the music had changed.
Gone was the Acid Rock, Strange bubbly music on synthesisers, with a background of
bird songs and waterfall noises urged you to space out. Sky found it an irritating noise.
Speaking of irritating noises… ‘Storm, what does it mean? That mantra thing you
are doing?’
Storm broke off her chanting, ‘Haven’t the faintest,’ she replied cheerfully. ‘It’s
something Mother sent. It is supposed to centre you, lines up your chakras or something,
concentrates you on the task in hand. A bit like Zen “What you are doing—That, you are
doing.” Anyway, Sorry, I usually only do it when I am alone. It gets very quiet here now
that Cloud is going to school. Gee it is great having you here Sis.’
Impulsively they hugged each other. ‘Time for a break,’ said Storm. “Tell me
about life in the big city.’
Sky did her best. But how to convey the bleakness of single parenting, of the
uncertainty of casual employment, the cost of child care. The loneliness, the failed
relationships. The few eligible men who found a five year old daughter ineligible. And
the daydream of a tropical paradise which had led her to re-establish contact with her
feral family. ‘It is very good of you and Kevin to have us.’
Kevin was in the pub. If there had ever been any feeling of incongruity, it was
long since gone. Despite the contrast between the locals in their khaki twin pocketed
shirts and the feast of colour that was Kevin, his ten years in the district had gained him
acceptance. Kevin was finalising his order.
‘Five slabs of four X, two Vodka, a bottle of Bundy, two scotch, one gin and two
crates of lolly-water for the kids—Oh, and a bottle of that French stuff for the old
woman.’
“Absinth? Can’t get it lately. Reckon she’d settle for Pernod? You mean she’s
actually coming this year. 1 wonder she dares to show her face after last time. Tell you
what. I’ll throw in the Pernod free if you promise to keep her away from my pub! She’s
a holy terror, if Holy is the right word!’
‘Now then Bill, She just took a shine to you.’ He finished stacking the crates in
the ute, ‘See you later.’
The publican watched as Kevin threaded his huge frame into the cab. ‘A lot
later,’ he prayed.

By H.St.V.Beechev