Melbourne, 1983. My name is not yet Daniel. I am wearing my eight-year-old face. Seated next to me at the dinner table is my brother Sean. He has his five-year-old face on. Our other two brothers would have been wearing their four- and three-year-old faces, but they’re not there. In bed already, they’re too young for the horrific ritual of the evening meal. In the present, they’re similarly absent – the faces they wear – from 2001 and 2013, respectively – are frozen by the timestamp of their deaths.
Throughout dinner, Sean and I are punished for having our elbows on the table. “BOOKS!” is the command. We both run to our room and fish out two books to bring back to the table and wear under our arms. Such is the brutalising and civilising gesture of eating at the table.
One of my books is Dad’s paperback of Lord of the Flies. I imagine flies, bees and insects swarming around the meal I’m eating. I can picture the same bugs on my dead body, in "The Dark, Dark Cemetery"of the grave I imagined earlier that day in a story I wrote and illustrated for Mrs Griffiths at school. Tusk plays on the radio in the other room. As Fleetwood Mac screams ‘TUSK’ over the driving tribal beat all I hear is ‘STUCK’ and I realise the face I’m wearing is a mask I’ll shed thirty years on.