Kiwi Writers' Cafe

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"Big news!" the Matriarch’s voice exploded down the phone line. Twenty two carefree, blissful years atomised instantly.

"Everyone’s coming home to celebrate my 80th. I know it’s hard for you to get away, and the flights are expensive - but this could be the last chance for all of us to get together…"

Six siblings scattered to the corners of the globe. Contact over the years had gratefully reduced to sporadic Christmas cards.

It has been said that a close family simply shares the same psychosis. Ours had so many different ones we couldn’t co-exist in the same country.

A private hotel had been reserved on a secluded Coromandel beach. A week to relax, catch up and recharge before the grandiose event - her birthday party on the last celebratory night.

Email poured in as pressure intensified - brochures of white sand beaches; menus of mouth watering foods remembered from my youth. Dawn horse treks to watch the sun rise over bush cloaked mountain ranges.

Intuitive doubt was finally dispelled when my Goddess smiled at me in her special way.

"You never know - it might just be fun."

The outbound journey was an omen, if such things do exist. A broken aircraft, missed connections and an unplanned stopover. Our sixteen hour journey morphed into a three day nightmare.

Staggering off the plane, a cruel Immigration queue snaked away to a distant point on the horizon. Ninety minutes later, I stood before the shaven head of a passport controller who expressed concern at the length of my absence.

He stared intensely at me through cobalt eyes; suspicion fissures etched in Neanderthal granite.

"A family reunion," I quickly confessed.

Beyond the interrogation chamber stood border control. An intense young man asked politely about the veneer of mud on my shoes.

"Standing in a third world airport carpark, waiting for the bloody plane to be fixed!" My patience snapped. My heart sank as his eyes lit up – he was passionate about biological risk.

Would I like an interview with his supervisor - with implied body cavity searches - or simply pay a $200 fine and they would provide the spray and paper towels to remove the toxic waste?

"Welcome to New Zealand!" the sign screamed in fourteen languages as we stumbled through to the arrivals hall. The eldest brother waited – his face a distant memory the passing years had not been kind to.

His ashen stare and lone presence confirmed the news was bad. Matriarchal revenge concluded with a massive heart attack - dead before she hit the floor some twelve hours earlier.

I shook his hand and thanked him, herding luggage back towards the United Airlines counter. He understood my work wouldn’t wait for two weeks and a funeral.

"Keep in touch." He told me, a business card on offer.

I smiled, shook his hand and looked over his shoulder - a Tui’s billboard blazed across the concourse wall.



Story Copyright 2005 Brian Fitzgerald