She is two. Years, that is. Very dark, like the other side of the moon. Very shiny, too. Like this side of the moon. Two kinds of hair, too. In some parts the curls are tight and black as peppercorns. In other areas, they hang jet and wet, twisted and twirled.

The hairdresser goes, "Oh, my goodness!" when she walks by. The hairdresser's tone implies: "I've just seen the next supermodel."

The hairdresser's hand, clamped to her open mouth, implies: "I am simply flabbergasted by such beauty. Floored, like a punch from the bee and butterfly man, Muhammad Ali."

The paperboy, no older than eight, gives her a look of sly apprehension as she approaches, curls tossing this way and that. In his hand he clutches the news rolled up into a paper cylinder. What he is actually thinking is: "Will she allow me to run my fingers through?"

There is, after all, something irresistible about masses of curls. Especially ones this pretty. This glossy. But like a little coward he shrinks from the moment when it presents itself.

Blue eyes

Their eyes meet, briefly, before she passes by. Hers are black, like watermelon seeds. Tiny, even. His are blue, large and, it seems, balanced on the rims of his eyelids.

Wonder will always be wide-eyed. Ten paces further up the street she pauses. Poses, actually. Majestically. As though this was the Miss World pageant and a cocky host was about to ask her that seemingly tricky final question: "'Is beauty truth or is truth beauty?"

In truth, she has halted because her watermelon seed eyes have espied a familiar sight.

It is Mr Graham and his boy. Three. Mr Graham's boy, that is. Three years old. She stands so still she could be a famous little statue at Madame Tussauds.

Mr Graham and his boy, however, are moving. Towards her. Mr Graham's face is painted with a brush called Delight.

Delight No. 8. His teeth, flashing the dull yellow badge of middle-age tea drinking, are bared in a wide-open grin. It doesn't matter that his knees are knobbly below his shorts. His hands, when they hug her, are warm. Strong.

She totters and nearly loses her equilibrium. Mr Graham holds her even closer. Protectively. She can smell so many things off him. Fishy things.

Vegetable things. Animal things. Mineral things. His belt buckle, for example.

Originally from deep within the soil. His belt strap that once was a crocodile. His fingers, smelling of bone. She gets this two-year-old urge to salivate. There, right on the street.

With the paperboy still looking over his shoulder. Thankfully, Mr Graham releases her before she can make a complete fool of herself. She regains control. Then, almost casually, as if he were just another part of the furniture in the room, she takes him in. Gives him the once over.

Him, being Mr Graham's boy. The three-year-old. As distant as they come! Brown of complexion. Browned-off, of attitude.

She could get to like brown. If brown could get to like black, in the first place. Nice short hair, she thinks. Suede head-like. Ears a bit on the extravagant side.


The better to hear you, my dear. If only! Does the hairdresser also go, "Oh, my goodness," when young Master Browned-off walks by, she wonders.

Does she even dare, when he fixes her with those eyes that can, like twin desert suns, melt ice?

Does he even bother, in the first place?

Is he a seeker after compliments?

No, he isn't, she feels. He's just a naturalist. Forever interested in trees.

Or an aspiring acrobat. Forever trying to balance. On three legs. Incredibly in what can only be a moment of amnesia he walks very close past her.

She, startled, lets out a feminine sniff, indirectly saying, "I'm here. Look this way." But all that Mr Monosyllable will reply, though, under his breath, too, as he sails by, is "Woof".

Kevin Martin is a journalist based in Sydney.