The boy followed Maisie across the bridge over the railway and down into the back streets of the suburb filled with light industry and run down housing. Despite being a few yards in front of him she prattled on saying things he couldn’t quite hear. Then suddenly she was gone. She had turned down a path between some houses, fought her way along the narrow lane overgrown with weeds and disappeared through the back gate of a property some distance from the road. They were home. The lane was an old access route for the night soil men who collected the buckets from the outdoor toilets from the backs of the properties so many years ago.
Immediately she entered the garden Maisie was greeted by a screech from the Galah swinging in a cage on the back veranda and one or two cats ran up to acknowledge her presence whilst others merely stared with their green eyes then looked away again.
One cat with a malevolent look eyed the boy with suspicion.
“Miserable bugger, don’t dare pick him up, he’ll scratch. So leave him alone.”
Meanwhile the goat ignored everyone and went on munching the grass as if they were not of his world at all.
“What’s yer name?” Maisie asked the boy.
“Paul” was the response.
Maisie acknowledged this with a nod and opened the back door with a push and dropped her bag on a table. She immediately put the kettle on and started rattling tins to ascertain the presence of biscuits.
Paul meanwhile wandered around the house sensing an essence of unwashed dog tentatively opened doors and found the mutt happily sleeping and unaware of their entry.
“Deaf.” Maisie said by way of explanation. The dog as if to deny this looked up presumably alerted by the vibrations through the floor and wagged his tail then appeared to go back to sleep again straight away.
“This is your room.” Maisie announced as she opened up the door to a room with slightly less clutter than the rest. “Where’s your stuff?”
“I'll get it later.” Paul said.
The kettle whistled its readiness and they returned to the kitchen area where tea was made, poured and liberally diluted with milk. Sugar came in sachets filched from the tables of outdoor cafes as Maisie collected her bottle and cans in the city.
Living on the edge of society had made Maisie a very practical person, nothing was ever wasted. As they sat there Maisie picked up a small piece of knitting and furiously added a few more rows to the indeterminate garment so small that couldn’t fit a doll let alone a child.
Paul obviously wanted to ask the question but Maisie was ahead of him. She picked up every movement, every nuance, everything that was happening around her.
“It’s a coat for the Galah. She’s losing all her feathers.”
For more of Maisie see: 'A Walk in the Park' and 'Maisie Perkins Story''