Craig sat on a park bench at the top of Arch hill waiting for the library to open. A mass of black hair hiding a large Polynesian man made its way up the steps towards him. It had been ten years. From this angle, he couldn’t tell if it was him or not. With each step that the man-made, Craig’s breaths deepened. A vein on his neck poked out and pulsed with his quickening heart. Nature screamed aromas. Manuka trees were bursting into blossom subtlety juniper. Wild onions had taken over the hillside, colonizers pushing the natives out. Beyond the trees, car exhausts wafted up from the valley where the motorway cut through like a river, sounding like a sea. None of those scents Craig received, all he could smell was fear.
Sione had grown up in Tonga where scents embraced. Seaweed baked in the tropical sun, its saltiness touching every surface. Whichever direction he walked, the sea was close, a saline refresher on his lips, dried in a sun that seemed to never set. In the centre of the island, great bunches of frangipani burst from trees. Every birthday, wedding and celebration he had ever been to, was wrapped in their aroma, their scent etched in his innocence. 30 years later, living in New Zealand, all of that had gone. Spells in jail corrupted that innocence. He often wondered why he had ever left.
Black mould crept up the walls to embrace Sione’s painted shut windows on that senseless night. The Kingsland house he rented was on the wrong side of the hill to catch the sun and he couldn’t afford to keep the heat on. His wife lay next to him. She had no other place to go. A pillow kept them apart. He fell asleep dreaming of how things could have been, sleeping lightly in this cold country, woken easily when Samson barked.
Samson was Alsatian, the king of the dogs, guarder of gates and scents were his world. He could smell the poodle that lived five houses away and knew when it was her time. He could smell the warming of meat juices and pastry when Sanjay the dairy owner on the hill turned on his pie warmers at seven in the morning. There were scents of foods from the café back down the road, on the clothes of the Chef who walked past the gate every night. There was also the smell of beer on him, but that didn’t interest Samson, Samson couldn’t eat beer.
Craig, that chef, had just finished a double shift as he ambled his way home, a few too many drinks, just thinking of the warmth of his bed. Samson came out barking, breaking the tranquillity of the early hours of the morning. It wasn’t the first time the dog had come out barking. Previously Craig had run. Maybe it was the beer. Maybe it was the tension of his long hours. This time Craig changed tack. As the dog came out of the yard and rounded the fence out onto the footpath Craig reached out and grabbed the first thing he could find, a rotted board from the fence next to him. He ripped it off and in the same motion swung out at the dog clipping it across the nose. The dog yelped. It ran back into the yard. Sione woke up to the sound of barking just before part of that same piece of wood hit the house, breaking the window, to the room where his children slept.
‘Lock your fucken dog up.’ Craig yelled.
The lights came on in the house on New North road. Sione shook his brother awake. The two, barely dressed, ran outside to see what was going on. Down the road Craig walked on oblivious to the men staring down at him. He threw the other half of the broken board onto a garden. Craig’s body buzzed with adrenaline, he kicked out at the air mimicking bad Kung Fu movies. He laughed at the night.
‘That all ya got’ he yelled into the dark, weaving a stumble home.
The night had not finished with Craig. A metallic blue Holden Statesman with plastic flowers on the dash screeched to a stop beside him. Sione moved his bulky form from out of the driver’s seat, his brother even larger came around from the other side. Craig noticing to late, took the only option available, and ran into a drive behind him. The carport where he ended up was a dead end. No words of explanation were offered, no stays of execution intervened, just violence unrestrained dished out.
Only snippets of memory remained for Craig from the moment the first punch hit. He remembers his face on concrete, the blood from his head pumping like a hose left running, a crimson lake flooding half the carport. He remembers trying to focus on plastic flowers while the man in the blue car said, ‘stay awake, stay awake’ as they rushed him to hospital.
He remembers a nurse looking at him in disgust, sniffing the beer on his breath, and saying to the doctor ‘boy’s will be boys’. He remembers the smell of disinfectant as he was being wheeled into the operating theatre, the last thing he ever smelt from that day on, when he lost his sense of smell, after the senseless night.