Growing up, my brother and I lived with Dad in a Housing Commission flat among a row of identical flats. Back in those days, we played Greatest Hits of the 70s through a subwoofer on the back deck. During the guitar solo in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ we howled over the music and the neighbourhood dogs followed our lead, continuing their cries long after the song was finished. This was after Mum had passed away. Dad couldn’t find any work so he spent each day drinking Bundaberg Rum mixed with Coke and creating sculptures out of junk that he collected in a trolley he found dumped by the creek behind Safeway.
Dad called himself an artist (he was a cabinetmaker by trade), but he never sold a work. Instead, he would ‘donate’ his finished products to the public – he left them on nature strips, playgrounds, the carpark behind the fish-and-chip shop. Dad always said he was ‘not-for-profit’.
On the nature strip opposite my high school Dad built a piece he called Perspective. It was basically twelve copper pipes bound together in the middle then twisted at the ends like open palms, or a flower in bloom, but really it just looked like a bunch of copper pipes. Dad said he came up with it after he passed out in our driveway: he woke up to water splashing over his face from a down pipe affixed to the side of the house. I was in year seven.
‘Your dad is a retard,’ said Holly, a girl in the year above, whose own dad was a bikie with the Hells Angels. ‘Only a retard could make a sculpture that shit.’
Holly followed me home that day. She threw rocks at me until we reached the flat and when she saw where I lived she burst into feverish laughter. Dad kept the junk he collected for his art in the front yard. The odds and ends resembled a garbage tip and included stacks of discarded couches and a collection of traffic cones.
‘Look at Rubble Boy go into his rubble home,’ Holly said.