I dream of Uluru (DRAFT)
G’day, you guys at Meanjin,
The reason I’m writing you this letter is because it has my story in it. My name is Ernie Cookson, but you can call me Cook. I’m not much of a writer but I like reading. I’ve read a few books now, and I like what they have to say to me, as a person, as just an ordinary human being like you guys, wherever you are. This is the first story what I’ve written. I know that my granma isn’t perfect yet, and nors my speling (that was a joke), but I want you to think about whether or not I have a chance in this thing. So, this is my story. Please be kind enough to read it. I’d do the same for you. It’s called “I dream of Uluru”.
Hello, whoever and wherever you are. Whatever yor’re doing right now just stop, and take a pause in your busy lives to read my story. Why? Because I would do the same for you. See, here’s the thing, I love reading. I’ll read anything, anywhere , anytime and anyplace. But it wasn’t always like that. My name is Ernie Abrahams. but people call me Cook. Because I like cooking. Other people call me Bra, which I don’t mind because iot reminds me of Bro, as in how ya going Bro. Just don’t call me Bert, because I don’t like that one.
I have recently lost me wife and daughter, and I want tot tell you how and why that happened. Sometimes though, I think I’ll never know. My wife’s family buried her but I want to take my little girl up to Uluru and lay her down at the feet of that great mountain, that piece of solid rock.
Most of the rest of what I tell you will be true. Not perfectly, in all the details, but for the most part.
The reason people called me Ernie was because when I was younger, my favorite TV show was Sesame Street. You know how they talk about being stuck to the screen. Well, my mother just about had to scrape me off. Just so as I could help pout around the house a bit with the youngest. My real name is Errol by the way. My family satarted calleing me Ernie and I guess the name kind of stuck.
At school, I didn’t go much. Why? I guess I just didn’t like it. They didn’t talk about anything I was interested in. See, I like fishing and camping. Always have and always will. Oh, and I love kicking a football and hitting a ball. I was actually pretty good at both of them, especially football. I wanted tpo go pro before I did my knee. Never got into that AFL thing, though. I like the other one- the real man’s game- the great game of Rugby League. I still like Karmichael though.
But I never liked books, not at school anyway. I hated maths, and I hated reading. Why? Because I’m black. And it just seemed like part of the white man’s world to me and the teachers never liked me anyway. And I wasn’t any good at it anyway, not then. I guess I kind of feell through the cracks, but they were some pretty deep cracks. I asked fpor a better word was the other day. “Coach”, that’s what I call my friend G, told me a crevice was a pretty good word to descrivbe what I fell through. I wrote this mostly by myself, but “coach” helped me a bit with the speling, a cooupla jokes, and the flow. By the way, I’m only 24.
We used to do crazy stuff (not me and coach, morons- me and my friends) when we should have been at school. When did you learn to drive, for instance? I learnt to drive when I was ten! I could barely see the windscreen. We took it slow at first just not to get caught by the cops. One day, I went fishing with my uncle and his friend. He parked the ute and we offloaded this canoe. God, that thing was heavy. Then, my mad bastard uncle said, Here’s what I want you to do, Ernie.” I want you to paddle down the river for a bit, just passed the old flour mill. We’ll park the ute and get the fishing gear out.” “That’s ages,” I said. He said it was “a coupla hundred meters.” This was at Cooper’s Crossing, by the way. Mad bastards sent me on a wild gioose chase that day. I was paddling for hours. I started to cry (“coach” told me everyone cries, by the way, so it’s no biggie) at one point, but sometimes you’ve just got to pull yourself together and keep going. So that’s what I did. After awhile, I thought I’d never find the bloody flour mill. So I truied to park the canoe by the river bank. And I literally, fell out the boat! Suddenly, you’re not going to believe this, a fish jumped into the boat! I didn’t have a rod so I beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it, until it stopped. Breathing, that is.
I’m going to tell you quickly about Abraham my best friend anyway, because if I don’t put my best friend in my story, what kind of a man am I? Abraham was crazy man, but the thing about Abraham is he is the kind of man who would give you his own shirt off his own back if you didn’t have one. I’ve seen him do it once. He just did it and said, “No sweat, I’ve got too many, anyway. Plus its hot.” The thing with Abraham is he loves women. We both used to. I settled down but Abe’s got five, already. He used to call me Flynn and I used to call him Father sometimes. As in “Father Abraham’s got many sons. I am one of them and so are you, so let’s all praise the lord. Nod your head, clap your hands, shake your feet, and WIGGLE IT” Its an old church song I learnt in Boys Brigade, kind of like Church Scouts. But, he’s still my friend.
Anyway, let me explain what happened to me later. Do you remember the floods a few years ago. Well, my family used to live near Riverbank. Not the best place to be when the rivers overflow. Those were some crazy times, man. Shit man, we had bull sharks roaming the streets! It was like your whole life was being washed away. Everyone was going kind of survivalist, rowing boats to get supplies, and waiting on rooves for helicopters to come or some shit. I was lucky to survive. My house was destroyed and so I had to move into a temporary shelter. I am still living there now. Everyone kind of forgets afeter the really bad stuff happens. It makes me angry, sometimes, but coach told me it was just part of life. The same sort of stuff happens all over the world. He also told me right near that time 20 000 people died in Japan where he used to live. Talk about being homeless. Those guys were house less, they were apartment less, they wer car less, they were- well there was a lot less of everything after that. I thought we had it bad. But its not the scale of the tragedy I guess. Its not how many its that or what. My friend is always saying shit like that I can only kind of understand.
So, I was going to tell you how I learnt to read. After the floods, I was living in a temporary shelter. It wasn’t much really. There were a lot of scared and lonely and angry people around, I remember that much. But there wasn’t much to do. sUddenly, these guys started coming by. They called themselves the Footpath Library, and they had all of these books. They had comics, so I used to look at them, because at least I could understand the pictures. They had kids books too. I looked at them and thought, this is baby shit and I can’t even read it.
Then this guy, Mike, came around and started asking us if anyone like hip hop. Man, it was about the only music I listened to. He said, do you know the words? And I said, sure. He said, how good’s your rap. Show me a bit of breaking if you know how to do that first. Fuck off man, I said, What do you really want. And he said, I want to teach you how to read becuase it looks like youre not quite sure how. SO he told me this plan, I didn’t have to do it if I didn’t want to, but if you slow down your rap a bit you can learn to read.
I don’t want to read man, I hate reading. Cool, he said, and grabbed this short book and said look at thhese pictures listen to these rhymes, what’s the story really about. He sauid, no, its not. Its about triumph and overcoming and a couple of words like that.. Its about learning to like stuff you didnt know how to do before. I said so whys it called Green Eggs and Ham. He said, because Green Eggs and Ham only exist inside the imagination, but imagination is the realest thing of all.
So I was pretty unsure about this at first. I liked the hip hop part but that other stuff seemed kind of whack, shit for babies. And then he told me a story about a guy called Joseph who started off with an overcoat that was over used and old and worn out like he felt sometimes. But you can only make do with what you’ve got. So the overcoat gets smaller and asmaller and changes into all of these different things and he sdoes all of this different stuff until finakly it becomes a button and gets lost. The only thing you can do with nothing is this, use your imagination to make a story which shows you can always make something out of nothing. And then he showed me the book.
After that, I started paying more attention to that part of the program. And that was how I met my wife. She was from Kenya and used to live near Inala. She had stories like you wouldnT believe. Her family were part of a tribe of Bushmen- Bush people she used to say, because she was studying too. She used to tell me about her culture and I ntold her about mine. We had a lot in common.
And that was how I met my wife.
What’s more, this came on the back of the severe flooding that struck South East Queensland during the Christmas holidays of 2010 and early 2011. I had gone back to Australia for the first time in maybe 3 years only to find that most of the places I had lived in Australia were either underwater or soon to be. I remember seeing footage of the people of Bundaberg wading through flooded streets, rowing boats to get supplies or waiting on their rooves to be evacuated. The three weeks I spent in Ipswich and Brisbane were days filled with torrential rains but nothing serious happened until I returned to Japan. Two days after my return, waves began sweeping through shopping centers in Toowoomba where my sister Helen lives, large parts of Brisbane were washed away and the roads between Brisbane and Ipswich were closed as bull sharks began to roam the streets. Fortunately, I have managed to keep just outside these troubled spots myself.
When natural disasters occur, some people appear to the world to have left the tragedy behind, to have dismissed it from their minds.
We have always been homeless in a way but this is how I lost my temporary shelter. The concept of having a home never seemed real to us. Not really like it does to others. Within our culture we have always thought we shared the land. We have always thought that this land is our land. With the empasis on our, on sharing, do you white fellas remember that. So long as we were under a sky, of whatever color or whatever hue, we have felt at home. If you were under that canopy with us, that tent shaped by countless stars we have always seen you as part of pour extended family, as our brothers, sisters and cousins. Other families turned their houses inward, turned away we turned our circle (facing) out. Including all of this great, great land as everyone’s we knew that as far as the eye could wander, no as far as our feet could take us could be part of our home, if we learnt to be truly mobile and run fast enough from the great lions that preyed upon us, that lay in wait all around. But several generations ago that dream was teken from us, bit by bit our vision were stolen and our dreams were not kept. Now we dream dreams of isolation and despair. How I love to escape from this chaotic modern world just for a moment, even inside my minds inner eye I can see myself back in that boundless terrain, running, forever free. How to get there now, how can I go walkabout and feel good about it, in this world of broken bottles, plastic shit, sharp metal. What’s your favorite color people ask. I love black why wouldn’t I. I am black. But I also like white, I want to be a writer, I see all of the little tiny figures, in all their differnt shapes and sizes, there’s big ones and little ones, the white fellas call them letters, I see them set against a white background. I learnt to read their them signs, and it taught me something, they call that stuff reading, and then once you (understand) learn the (their) language, we can learn to writes, to tell our stories, our hopes and dreams of little happiness, but we are going to need a lot of help. I want to take my family… (back home) Generations, homelessness, the new born baby of this hopeful man has a story too. It’s a pretty short one. They would call this shit a poem. It goes like this. Title: Kuki’s Poem Are you ready now, here’s the story the white man wrote foir me a two line poem. The first line has three words, the second line has one. This is the story they wrote for my little girl, Fucking god help my little girl, sorry just said a little prayer, the only one I’ve got right now, but here’s my poem. The heart beat. Stopped. Well fuck them, fuck life sometimes, but I try not to give into despair, I won’t let anyone take away the best parts of me, not them, not life, not even god him or herself. I am for my little girl’s life and other people’s babies too. I wish my little girl had made it,, even into a world as broken as this I have a life that a lot of other people wouldn’t want. But it’s mine, and the only one who can take that from me is myself. And I will get threouh this, and come out the other side, the same oldErnie. I believe in that. I have a name but no=one wanted to know me, no-one wanted to do anything real. My name is Ernie Cookson, but people call me Cook or sometimes even Bertie. I have what those Fu Keira called a pseudonym too, here’s the one they wrote for me. I. M. Nobody. Can someone give me some cigarettes, or a dollar. I want to bury my little girl in Arnham Land, right at the foot of Uluru right where that other white ladies baby girl was taken by the dingo. Because someone took mine too. got a dollar bro.