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164 • parade The big people were fussing about, lining them all up. They looked across at each other and gripped their trike handles hard. Festooned with Christmas decorations, the trikes were mighty machines. Both of them wanted to speak, but the overwhelming presence of their mothers kept them from doing so. Nervous and excited, they wanted to set off into the hot street, but were held back by gentle hands on their shoulders. Then she said to him, I like the streamers coming out of your bike. And he, embarrassed without quite knowing why, replied, My Nan put them there. His mother leaned down and whispered something in his ear, and he added, And you’ve got good streamers too. They knew each other from kindy, but not well. The boy knew she was three months younger than him because he knew everybody in the world’s birthdays. They looked at each other out of the corner of their eyes. Mainly studying the trikes, and noting the inadequacies of their York 165 p a r a d e own, or being proud of the bits that were better. Both were listening out, vaguely, to their mothers chatting. It’s a stinker of a day, one mum said. The other agreed. And they sounded as if they were telling someone off when they said, It’s always so hot at this time of year, they should hold the parade in the cool of the evening. Not in the middle of the day. It must be a hundred and three on the old scale out there now. Yes, not good for the children and the old people. And then they went quiet and chewed their lips and nails, glancing down at the children. I’ve got a new hat, the girl said. I’ve got lots of sun cream on so I won’t burn. So have I, said the girl. You need a new hat. It still works, this one, the one on my noggin, the boy said to his foot toying with the pedal, eager to get going. And then they were going, out from under the shade of the great gums. The entire parade was tumbling down to the corner outside the town hall, getting ready to turn onto the main street, to greet and reward the public. The parade’s organizers called out the names of individuals and groups when it was their turn to join the tail of the procession. The local fire-brigade chief was at the head of them all, twirling a baton. But the two children on their trikes, and their mothers standing vigilant behind them, got pushed aside in the enthusiasm and confusion as the band marched past, and the local ballet group did pirouettes, chassés, and jetés towards their audience. Following at a snail’s pace was a painfully red historic fire engine, upon which was mounted a puffing and sweating Santa, weighed down in a costume ten times thicker than anyone’s else’s, like some fantasy of ice in the mirages that warped the road, clutching a sack of sweets to hurl onto the pavement for the town’s kids to squabble over and collect. It was so hot. Those ballerinas should slow down, said someone, they’ll collapse before they even reach the corner. It’s the hottest parade day ever! 166 j o h n k i n s e l l a Then various farm animals were dragged into the procession, panting and lolling their heads as if about to expire. It’s cruel, someone else said. The entire procession was moving, the lead contingent around the corner and well on its way down the main street. The trike-riding children could hear the clapping and cheering and laughter. But each second it got softer, and by the time their mothers managed to attach them to the very end of the parade, like pinning the tail on the donkey, the applause had given way to the noise of the parade itself. It’s so hot, said one mum, the kids really shouldn’t be riding. That’s true, said the other. Come on kids, let’s give it a miss and do it next year instead, it’s too hot this year. No, muuuummm! I want to.We want to! The boy and the girl looked at each other, speaking their secret language of kinship, and started pedaling furiously. Slow down, slow down. Okay.You...


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