Every December when I was young, my family would pack two suitcases into the old station wagon and make the four-hour drive west to spend Christmas with my grandparents. Grandad and Nana lived on a farm. It was small compared to the neighbouring properties, but still big enough for us kids to have some great adventures.
One of my favourite things about the farm in December was the mangoes—big, juicy, aromatic, and the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. Grandad didn’t grow the mangoes; they came from Mr Ryan’s trees next door. Late in the afternoons, when it was almost dark, Grandad would walk up the dirt road from Mr Ryan’s house. In his hand, swinging in time with his limp, would be a plastic bag holding two fresh mangoes: one for me, and one for my brother Jason (we were the only two Venison kids who liked mangoes). Grandad’s other hand would be towing Nan’s wheeled shopping basket, chock-full of mangoes—at least fifty.
One Christmas Eve, Jason and I were playing on the front gate, pushing it in then climbing on and riding it as it swung back out. We tried to imitate its rusty squeal. It was getting late and Grandad would soon return. The sun sank low behind the hills, dyeing the sky orange. Cockatoos screeched, flying overhead. We saw Grandad coming up the road—at least we thought so; it was dark and hard to tell. The approaching silhouette had the bag of mangoes, but not Nanna’s shopping basket. It walked a little faster and straighter than Grandad too.
The dark figure neared; Jason and I stopped swinging on the gate. Heavy boots crunched toward us. It was Mr Ryan. “Here you go, boys,” he said, shoving the bag into my chest. I held onto it, but said nothing. He was a big man. “Tell your Grandpa I know he’s been stealing me mangoes and selling em in town. Tell im next time it’ll be the bull.” Mr Ryan turned and crunched away into the dusk.
Jason and I watched in silence for a few minutes. I turned and looked at Jas; he was shivering, staring at my chest. It was then I noticed the bag did not feel plastic. I looked down and studied what was in my hands. It dawned on me—I was holding a severed scrotum.
I shrieked and dropped the bloody package. Jas and I ran screaming up to the house, where Nan made us hot Milos to calm our nerves. About half an hour later, Grandad came in from the paddock in shock. We heard him explain to Nan that someone had killed and hacked up his ram, George. It was George’s testes I had unknowingly cradled.
We didn’t get as many mangoes after that, and the ones we did get were store bought. I feel sorry for kids today. So many of them miss out on the fun of country life.
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