Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mail Order Bride, Chapter 9, Lost Childhood

Lost childhood

Christine drifted, a lost child from one foster family to another. How was one to restore that lost childhood to a twelve year old child who was betrayed by adults’ greed, deceitfulness and evilness? How could she revert to a child when she was exposed to the seedy adult world and had become an adult trapped in a child’s body.

The Child, Youth and Family Department placed advertisements in the Central Leader for foster parents but each placement did not last. After failure with each foster family, Christine was back at Barnardos which she called the ‘dumping ground.’ The trouble was, Christine, the girl that came to the foster family was not a child. Christine did not fit in with whānau carers because she wasn’t a Maori, she didn’t fit in with a Pakeha because she was part Filippino who thought she was Pakeha, and she didn’t have any kin in New Zealand. The Department of Social Welfare tried to impose an Intensive Foster Care Scheme for children like Christine who needed special homes, who were deemed unlikely to succeed in ordinary foster homes. It didn’t work. No amount of counseling helped. She was sexually active and had a taste for luxury, for champagne, caviar, smoked salmon, raw oysters, Jacuzzis and private swimming pools and yachts. Coming down to the average Kiwi lifestyle was crashing down hard. Christine just ran away when she wasn’t allowed her way.

In a deliberate and symbolic attempt to burn her bridges with Isabella, Christine changed her name to Destiny and coloured her hair platinum. She joined a group of street kids who were idle, unemployed, with a high consumption of alcohol and frequent drug taking. They were hooked into Ecstasy as a routine lifestyle drug, and binged on pure methamphetamine, or P. Their temporary homes were under the spaghetti motorway bridges, building site sheds and disused factories. Disused factories were the best, they protected them from the elements, especially in the cold wet winter. They could have an open fire and cook inside and nobody would disturb them. For entertainment, it was a dance floor for break dancing and hip hop to the blasting of the ghetto blaster. The boys had their boxing gloves, training themselves hard to be as good as Sugar Ray Leonard and Mohammad Ali. They wanted to be like these black boxers to beat up the Pakehas and the Police who they called the pigs.

Kevin was the leader of the group. Kevin was an alpha male, six foot tall, hard muscle and dark and very handsome. Kevin had slide back, curly black hair. He was very cocky and very sure of himself. He was very street-wise and told the kids that all the women found him irresistible. Kevin was always canoodling his girls one at a time. He made Christine feel that she was the only girl in the world at that particular time until the next floozy came along.

“I could have been an All Black, but the arse hole coach was jealous of my handsome face and prowess in the rugby field. On a drop of the hat, the bloody coach sends me to the sin bin.”

He had served his apprenticeship in another gang and rose to lead this gang and would no doubt become a hardened ‘crim’ when he grew older. Kevin was the only one in the gang who had a regular fixed income, courtesy of the Rt Hon Helen Clark, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. He was on the dole. On Thursdays, he collected his dole money of less than one hundred dollars, but, as he told the kids, it sure beats sweating forty hours in a workshop or factory for just a wee bit more. Thirty percent was invested thirty dollars on the TAB and Lotto. More often than not, these investments fail to recoup any dividends though they promise to make the investors an instant millionaire. The rest of the dole money is spent on a couple of whole rotisserie roasted chickens from Foodtown deli and investing in Lion brewery to make the kids loyal to him. The kids never fail to salivate watching the chooks go round and round in the big upright oven. Kevin’s gang was the best and the other gangs respected that, and there was minimal bloodshed, unlike in other gangs.

Kevin was like king in a pride of lions. Kevin was twenty and he had his harem of female lion hunters, and young male lions as his soldiers. They did every thing he told them to do, because he had his non stop supply of P. To feed their habits, he made his girls to earn money from prostitution and he knew the pimps of K Road on first-name basis. Occasionally the girls masqueraded with heavy makeup as older girls and approached the illegal brothels. He chose his favourite street kid to sleep with and often jealousy caused these girls to fight among each other. Kevin was the king pin in the gang and nobody dared to defy him. Even the pimps of Karangahape Rd, or generally known as simply K Rd, gave him respect. Kevin supplied the pimps with the kind of girls their clients preferred and he gave them condoms and insisted that the pimps told their clients to use them for the benefit of his girls and for themselves.

Destiny became the apple of Kevin’s eye and his girl. She slept next to him. It was love at first sight for Destiny but hate at first sight for the girls for Destiny. They said she was attention grabbing and promiscuous and just a kid. Kevin promoted her to the head of the harem, and the other girls didn’t like it a bit. Destiny was eager to please Kevin in everything he asked for, and she was experienced. The rest of the girls were just girls. The pimps told Kevin that Destiny was their own money spinner, certain clients specifically asked for her and paid big bucks. Destiny felt these clients were reminiscence of Matt, and they brought her to nice clean rooms. Kevin treated her like royalty and Destiny acted like a queen and the girls hated her. Within Kevin’s harem, they had learnt that they had to tow the line. Kevin took her to the tattoo shop where she got two tattoos, a letter K D on her right budding breast and a butterfly at the left shoulder. K stood for Kevin, and D for Destiny. When her clients asked her what they meant, she whispered in their ears that they meant ‘kiss dear.’

Destiny wove a tall story about her life. She told people that her dad was an American navy admiral who was killed in a submarine accident in the Philippines. Her late mum was a beauty queen from Manila.

Destiny’s rival was Susan. Susan came and went when she felt like it. Susan was a runaway and had dyed her long brown hair blonde. Susan was slim and Caucasian and had hazel coloured eyes and was the apple of Kevin’s eye until Destiny arrived. Susan came from a two parent church going family who had her mum and dad at wits end when she ran away every time her mum tried to discipline her, or when she fought with her siblings. At a drop of the hat, she would run away. The first time she ran away, she was suspected to be traveling with a group of adult men with questionable motives. She told her sister that these men offered her a modeling job and bought her anything she wanted, clothes, make up and accessories.

With Destiny’s arrival usurping Susan’s position in Kevin’s harem, the two girls often erupted in a fish wife’s frenzy of bile and name calling and hair pulling.

“Lay off Kevin, he is mine,” Susan in her coldest tone and her eyes shooting daggers at Destiny.

“Sorry, Kevin likes me, and he told me this morning that I am his girl, He says I am prettier than Bic Runga and have her eyes.”

“Get the hell out of here before I lose my cool and you kiss goodbye to your pretty face.”

Christine rolled her eyes and challenged Susan, “Make me, the best girl wins,” and strutted in her four inch stiletto heels towards Kevin and gave him a flurry of kisses.

Kevin was amused by his bickering and walked away nonchalantly. He never interfered with his girls’ bickering which he consider petty.

Susan told the rest of the kids, “It’s time we taught the stuck-up bitch a lesson, she comes in here thinking she is a princess. She needs bringing down a peg.”

The younger kids didn’t know if they should do anything and looked to Kevin.

When Kevin ignored her, Susan up and went in a huff.

“I am leaving to where I am appreciated as a ravishing beauty, and not relegated to second class.”

Kevin knew she just went home and it was a matter of time, she came back with her tail in between her legs.

“There is no rhyme or reason for Susan to run away this time,” reported Susan’s mum to the police.

“We are very distraught and just want our vulnerable little girl back,” added Susan’s dad.

The gang was watching the evening news at Bond and Bond electrical store when Susan became a celebrity. Her parents held her photograph to the television camera and appealed to her to come home.

“Little girl, vulnerable, my foot, this is exactly why I ran away, they treat me like a little girl and don’t give me space. They forget I will be fourteen soon,” retorted Susan with her head covered up by her hoodie just in case people recognized her.

As a group, they enjoyed breakdancing to the loud music from their big chromed ghetto blaster cassette player held on one of the boys’ shoulder. They wandered up late at nights to vehicles stopping at red lights to sell them drugs. They ate at McDonalds, window shopped at Briscoes and Farmers when the stores were packed and crowded during a sale. The boys mainly wore beanies and hoodies, but Kevin had a black leather jacket up-lifted from a shop. The shop was having a store wide sale when the sales assistant was too busy to serve him. He just walked out of the store with the jacket on his back unpaid for. The girls rolled up their skirts until they became ultra mini skirts, wore fish net stockings and strutted down with their high heels clicking to the legendary and notorious ‘Pink Pussy Cat’ massage parlor. They used vulgar language at the old homeless men sitting on the bench. They gravitated to the red light strip of K Road and asked for cigarettes from passersby. They called out expletives and teased the men going to the X-rated shops and told them that they would provide better services than the call girls inside. While the girls were entertaining the men, the boys hung around and used their symbol of their middle finger and shouted profanities. If they ran out of money, and were hungry, they would go down to the Auckland City Mission on Sunday evenings for their soup and toast.

On a cold winter Sunday night, they often trotted up to the Auckland Baptist Tabernacle. They were made welcome by Ron Sickling, a middle aged light coloured hair Pakeha man who welcomed them and gave them cups of hot coffee.

“Not bad!”

The Tabernacle chairs were unlike other hard pews of churches they knew when they went to church as kids with their mum and dad. At that time, they went to church when they first arrived in New Zealand. These chairs with soft blue padding were like chairs in a cinema, albeit they were old. The music the young punks played with their drums and electric guitars didn’t given them an ear ache.

Guy Fawks day was the best time of the year. They shoplifted fire works and let off firecrackers and fireworks way before it was legal to do so. Sometimes when they ran out of fireworks, they would just set fire to boxes left outside alley ways. It was a legal time to become pyromaniac since it was the Kiwi tradition to light fire works and crackers. When they saw animals, they would throw a fire cracker to scare the hell out of the dog or cat.

The gang, the ‘Invincible Original Kiwis’ as they called themselves often picked fights with rival gangs they call ‘Newbies’ made up of new immigrant kids from Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, India, Pakistan, China and other countries. They fought with glass bottles. Even innocent bystanders minding their own business were attacked when they were in a park frequented by the gangs. The victims were afraid to call the police for fear of retaliation in the future. Sometimes they rolled newspaper round steel rods and bashed the windshields of cars parked on the roadside because they resembled the cars driven by a rival gang or had the misfortune of being parked at a suspected rival’s house.

“Go back to your bloody countries, instead of causing trouble here.”

Except for the Maoris, the ‘Original Kiwi’ gang forgot that their parents or grand parents were once new migrants too. John Key, the new National Party Opposition leader called them a ‘growing under class.’ These kids played truant from low-decile schools, their parents were divorced, single and or unemployed. Many of them were hurt by physical, emotional or sexual abuse. It was a vicious spiral going down and down with no hope of coming out of it.

They drove round rival gang areas slowly looking for small groups. Their ammo was bottles filled with piss.

“Let's have a ball of a time.”

They squirt or spray their foul smelling piss on their victims’ head and body. They yahoo at them, show them the finger and then speed off before their victims could retaliate. Because they were always driving in different stolen cars, it was difficult for any eye witness to identify them. In most cases, the victims and eye-witnesses were too scared to come forward and report such senseless shenanigans. Occasionally, they even used beer bottles and this is when the scene turned ugly with blood oozing from the victims.

Small dairies were their favourite haunts as they were manned usually by the proprietors who were busy at the back of the shop. They lifted things they needed and things they didn’t. They went as a group, and some of them distracted the proprietor while others shoplifted. They enjoyed their mischief of stealing eggs and throwing them into houses with open windows. Hearing their victim’s curses gives them a high and they gave themselves high fives and running off before the victims came out to the footpath.

They mark little old Asian women shopping at the shopping malls of Howick and Botany Downs. They follow an old woman shopping alone, from the mall to her car. Then they accost her as she pack her shopping into the car boot and relieve her of her cash and hand bag. Some old ladies reported that they offer to push their trolleys to their cars, and then flash their army Swiss knives to make them quiet. Police issue advice to these ladies in the predominantly Asian parts of rich Southern Auckland not to go shopping by themselves, especially in Howick which was nicknamed Chow-wick.

Generally, the gang was just into breakings and entering, and stealing treasured possessions to be pawned or sold cheaply at second hand shops. They were known by the police as a ring of brazen thieves in a spate of day-light burglaries. The police knew that these kids would progress to gangs who became perpetrators of gang fights and shotgun battles.

Once they were prowling a house where there was no curtain at the downstairs windows. They could see a laptop dining table by the window. The house had an Armourguard sign, but when they screwed open the window ledge, the house wasn’t armed. Kevin grabbed the laptop and they laughed all the way to second hand shop. The unscrupulous second hand dealer wouldn’t give them much money for the lap top.

“You are handing me a hot potato, with no power lead, it is as good as useless. Would the little guy like a brand new Swandri coat in exchange?”

Kevin swore and grabbed the coat and gave it to Vince, the littlest, but very useful, member of the gang.
Shopping mall management hated them, even if they were not doing anything. Often, the gang sat at the car parks to the entrance of the shopping malls minding their business. The pigs sent their security guards to disperse them because their presence was a menace to the shoppers. In one incident at St Lukes Shopping square, security guards actually man-handled Kevin and escorted him off the premises and evicted the rest.

“Our shoppers were complaining you were hurling abuse at them and they were afraid to walk pass you.”

A favourite activity they all enjoyed was graffiti tagging. It gave a sheer gratification to see a blank wall or fence given a complete make-over by their graffiti. One day, they were walking past Mitre 10 at Corner of Dominion Road and Landscape Road in Mt Eden. The newly painted white wall was so tempting. Destiny would pretend to buy two cans of spray paint and distract the two cashiers while the other lifted spray paints and walked coolly out of the store.

Destiny placed the spray cans on the counter and left crumbled notes and some coins and asked quietly, “How much?”

Irene the checkout operator, bristling with superiority, “Hey Liz, one of these mail order bride kids.”

Destiny asked quietly, “How much?”

Irene points to the sign belligerently, “Sorry we don’t sell spray paints to under eighteen year olds.’

Liz sarcastically sneered and bellowed, “These mail order bride kids, can’t speak English, can’t read English and can’t count.”

Destiny swept the cans of spray paint across counter, kicked the M and M dispenser machine and knocked it over. The M & M lollies rolled out on the floor.

Destiny rushed out of the store, “Damn you!”

Irene cursed and shouted, “Don’t you come again, you little punk.”

Liz pointed an imperious forefinger and shouted, “Out! Out! Out!”

In the midst of the commotion, Kevin and the rest of the gang slipped out quietly with their booty inside their hoodies and jackets. They packed themselves in the car and went to a disused factory not too far away to get high from sniffing the fumes of the spray paints they just lifted. They kept enough cans for the night’s agenda.

The next morning, when Irene and Liz showed up for work, their manager was staring at their newly painted wall.

Tagged on the wall were graffiti slogans, “Irene and Liz, bitches, racist Nazi pigs, Irene and Liz, bloody dykes, fat  cows,” and other obscenities.

“I knew it, it’s those bloody street kids and the mail order bride girl who came in yesterday,” said Irene.

They went round the back and found food scraps, broken beer bottle shards, and glue bags and empty petrol cans. These kids had sniffed glue and petrol after tagging graffiti on the wall. The stench of urine was so strong that Irene suggested to the manager to call the police. The manager shook his head and proceeded to clean up the mess himself because he knew that Irene, Liz or any of the guys at work would not be bribed to do it for him.

Kevin and the kids were parked in a stolen car round the corner enjoying watching them admire their masterpiece. Thirteen year old Stan, Kevin’s cousin twice removed, was the artist in the group. He even put his signature at the corner of the tagged wall.

Among the group was little eleven-year-old Vince. Vince had served his apprenticeship at his Uncle Les’ dodgy garage and motor shop. Uncle Les used to holler at him and paid him peanuts. Vince didn’t mind, Uncle Les taught him an invaluable lesson: Vince knew how to hot wire a car and also occasionally disposed of it at Uncle Les’ garage for some pocket money. Most of the time, Vince would use his knowledge just to take cars for joyrides. Kevin approved of him, and the girls showered him with kisses and hugs though Vince wasn’t into girls just yet. Vince knew that he had to look for the old cars because the new cars might have a car alarm and immobilizers installed making it dangerous to steal and impossible to hot wire.

“Once I tried to steal a new car I didn’t know had installed an alarm and immobilizer, the alarm siren sounded so loud and the lights flashed so brightly that I shat my pants. No, to play it safe, I always go for an old car.”

Sometimes when Vince was successful in nicking a car, they had drink and drug-taking parties at the beach. They threw broken glass bottles, used condoms and hypodermic needles and tagged graffiti on the rocks and toilet buildings. They had their thumping ghetto stereos blasting so loudly that residents nearby complained to the police that the noise was shaking their houses. Destiny and her friends did not care. Sometimes they took turns to make out in the car. When the residents came to tell them to be considerate to lower their volume, they shouted obscenities and showed them their middle finger. They thought themselves to be smart by leaving before the police came. Depending on their mood and how much the residents had upset them, they either left the car or they set fire and it became a burnt-out shell dumped in the park. When they were short of money, Vince would drive the car to Uncle Les’ garage and the boys would help him strip the car apart. In no time, the owner would not be able to recognize his car from the pile of spare parts.

Les would give Vince a gentle punch and shove after giving him enough money to make them happy, “Don’t come back, you hear me? Make sure you lay low for a while.”

One day Les asked, “Vince, you guys been mucking around the over-bridge at the Southern Motorway?”

“Nope! Why you ask?”

“Don’t you kids ever watch the TV? A rock dropped from an over-bridge at the Southern motorway landed like a missile on a passing car. The rock was like a rocket projectile and smashed the windscreen barely hitting a woman driver. Her car ran over the shoulder and she is seriously injured in Middlemore hospital.”

“Gee! That’s hard luck eh!”

“You guys better lay low for a while eh, I don’t want your mum come after me because I am bad influence. The police are keeping an eye on ‘idiotic, irresponsible’ hooligans treating the southern motorway as their own playground,” said Uncle Les.

“It was just a bit of fun.”

“You don’t give me any lip, you never think such a senseless act could have tragic consequences,” reiterated Uncle Les.

The gang knew they were saved by the skin of their teeth when they left before anyone saw them. They were indeed the culprits. After a boring Saturday afternoon, they decided to have some fun. They had not thought that having fun might cost a life.

Kevin and Vince were on their reconnoiter mission along New North Road. To their delight, a delivery man had left his mini refrigerated truck outside the Fish & Co restaurant with the engine running while delivering his seafood to the restaurant. Quick as a flash, Kevin and Vince got into the truck and sped off. Kevin drove cross the Auckland Harbor Bridge to the Devonport Ferry Terminal building car park. There Vince hot wired a Holden whose owner had parked it in the morning and caught the ferry to downtown Auckland for his nine to five job. The duo loaded as many foam boxes as they could and killed the engine of the truck, locked the door and threw the key into the sea.

They sped off again cross the Harbor Bridge to ‘their’ disused factory at Three Kings. Like manna from heaven, they were rewarded with manna from the New Zealand rich sea. The kids whooped with delight, Kevin and the boys broke up pallets to make a BBQ fire. They barbecued giant red and black crayfish, tiger prawns, snappers, salmon, and farm-reared green lip mussels in their shells. The girls giggled as they plied open the pottles of oysters and scallops and pickled mussels. They let the yummy morsels of mollusk slither down their own throats and Kevin’s while sucking the juice in a sexy gesture.

“All these oysters put me in the mood,” Christine started to tell them what Matt told her about eating oysters, especially raw ones.

Vince and the other boys gave dirty looks and made obscene finger signs and said in unison, “Yuks!!!”

Vince used a screwdriver to open up the black spiky Kina or sea egg and grey oysters on the rock. Susan would not eat the Kina.

“How can you eat anything like a hedgehog?” asked Susan.
“You don’t know what you a missing, Pakeha girl.”

They had such a banquet and feeding frenzy that they were bloated. The only thing missing was booze, the DB beer to wash down the seafood. Kevin ran out of money that day and they were in a hurry to dig into the seafood to bother about booze at that time.

Two days later, the police responded to the employees of the Devon Port Ferry Terminal complaint of a stinking obnoxious stench. Upon investigation, they found an abandoned refrigerated truck. They had to get a locksmith to open the truck. It was the same truck a fish company had reported missing. Initially it was suspected that the driver was the architect of a theft of almost three thousand dollars worth of expensive seafood. The driver was cleared because if he was the thief, the truck would have been cleaned out instead of leaving half of the expensive delicacy rotting in the car park. The employer gave him a warning for his negligence in not locking his truck when he made his delivery.

The police found another stinking vehicle at Three King’s car park. The Holden had seafood fluid seeped into its carpet and back seat. A Toyota Corolla was reported missing from the same car park. It was never recovered.

Destiny was boasting of the life of the rich and famous princess she was before she joined the gang. She was telling them the luxurious boat and Waihike Island. Most of the kids had never been on a boat, not even a ferry ride to Devonport or Howick. They were pestering Kevin to steal a boat. Kevin and Vince scoured around for an old car with a tow bar. It wasn’t easy to find an old car, it was even harder to find one with a tow bar. The bloody Jap imports that the car companies had been bring in hardly had any tow bars. Eventually at a cul-de-sac of Edenvale Road was an old rust bucket Ford Escort. Presto! It was a manual alright, and it had a tow bar. In no time, Vince got it started and they drove to K Rd.

Destiny sat in the front seat, Kevin drove and four kids packed in the back.

“Let’s see what treasure there is?”

Destiny checked the coin compartment and got about five dollars worth of coins, then she opened up the glove compartment. There was an old map and nothing else worth taking.

“Oh shit, the owner is a Bible banger type.” Destiny took out a brand new Revised Standard Version Bible. She passed it to the girls at the back.

The girls shrieked with laughter and threw the Bible out of the window.

“Gee! These people had just been married last December. This Bible was used during their wedding service. I hope they are happily married for the rest of their bleeding life, too bad!!!!” Susan threw the Bible out of the window.

Kevin drove the old car to across the Auckland harbor bridge and went to North Shore and Glenfield before they spotted a smallish boat on a trailer. Vince got off and hooked the trailer on to the tow bar of the Ford Escort. Vince had not counted for the boat being so heavy. Kevin revved and revved the engine, but the boat would not budge. The car made such a loud racket, that the house owner and his bloody nosey packer neighbors woke up and shone their lights at them. The car’s engine died.

“You bloody street kids, get off my property! I am calling the police.”

“Shit! Shit! Shit! Get out of the car and run,” called Kevin.

They bolted like a bullet, except for Destiny, she lost a high heeled shoe and had to run with one shoe. She had to run like a person with one short leg.

When the police came, the kids were gone. The boat owners were laughing that these stupid kids had stolen a little car to steal their big boat. The police located the car owner in Mt Eden, and drove him to Glenfield to identify the Ford Escort the next morning. The enormous task of towing the boat had ruined the engine. The car was towed to a garage to be fixed, the insurance paid for its replacement.

The female car owner was very upset about the loss of her Bible. “The pastor who conducted my wedding last month gave it to us, it is irreplaceable.”

Once safe in their haven in the disused factory in Three Kings, the street kids laughed at their close shave and encounter with the police.

“For all the bloody effort, we got only five dollars. I should have kept that Bible to sell at the second hand shop. It was brand new.” said Destiny.

“You still want to bloody talk your grand talk about luxury boats!!!” said snide Susan.

After the dust had settled, the kids got restless again. Television and newspapers were reporting damage to the Ad Shel glass advertising panels at the bus stops.

“You boys been fooling around with your BB guns and your slingshots?” asked Uncle Les when Vince delivered him another hot car.

“Just a bit of rabbit and possum hunting, Les.”

“I don’t mean that kind of hunting.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean the pigs are watching young men in cars shooting at the Ad Shel bus stops.”

“No harm done, only property, the Government got plenty of money to fix them.”

“Property is one thing, and I don’t care about it. But you may injure old people or young kids in the bus shelter.”

“Gee! We just wanted to have fun, we never thought of hurting nobody.”

“Vinny, you listen to your old Uncle Les, childish shenanigans are one thing, hurting people is another. The pigs will send you to CYF and to a foster home if you don’t watch it.”

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