Call out ‘yadra’ to Joseph as the shelter van parks in our drive. Pull the cats from the loovers, shut them in the only part of the house they can’t escape. On the road and the van door opens. Lean over and hold onto our things in the back, door slides closed as we go down the hill, reach back and pull the cord to make it lock.
Not even eight in the morning and the kennel hands are already putting up the marquee for Open Day. Like most of our things it’s broken. It takes six of us to prop it up with a broom handle and weigh it down with rocks. ‘That’s what I like to see, the local way (of solving a problem),’ the President comments as he brings in the sound system.
We fill an esky with sunquick juice and fire up the gas BBQ. Everyone is wearing ‘We are all God’s creatures’ t-shirts. Buns are sliced and buttered while second-hand books are dusted off and arranged on a table. It’s hot. Pink and yellow cupcake icing melts beneath its gladwrap shield.
The secretary of the board arrives with a bucket of kava and half a coconut shell. We drink.
There is some talk about the local council and what to do about the stray dog problem. We dream about owning more land and building a new shelter, far and away from the sea wall and tsunami threats.
Consider how to photocopy back-to-back as Lo is asked to copy a whole school textbook for one of Asata’s children. Show people around the shelter. Try to find a family composition form for Irava to fill out as part of her visa application to visit her sister in Australia. Chat to potential new owners for Vuaka. Paint children’s faces: dog, cat, spiderman, butterfly. Sweat makes face-paint colours run.
Then everything is packed away except the plastic garden furniture - we sit back, relax and drink more grog. Dump the broken marquee frame beside the rusty trapping cages (irreparable but too big to dispose of, it sits there like a bizarre art installation).
Scrounge around for empty bottles to fill with leftover sunquick, nothing can be wasted when we have so little. Another basin is filled with kava and a pack of cards comes out for ‘trumps 10’. Papa Joe shows me how to play, pointing to the cards I should discard with his one long finger nail.
Asata says ‘kana katakata koli’ (hot dog - literally a hot dog, not the food) and we laugh and laugh, slapping the back of one hand into the palm of the other.