Written by Rip Harden :: [Tuesday, 27 March 2012 23:50] Last updated by :: [Monday, 06 August 2012 11:21]
“I know how it’s spelt but it’s pronounced ‘Ka-ra’: like that supergirl on TV.”
That voice, I knew that voice.
I had only been back in this town a week. Now on relief staff, I had the opportunity to act as registrar of the Northern Region district registry of births, deaths and all things in between. For a few years in my early 20s I had served here as a clerk and the pride I had at returning as ‘the boss’ was apparent.
She looked different but the familiarity remained. Even though she was being served by staff, the earphones of an Ipod remained in place, the white cords running down from arrow-straight tar-black hair, parted on one side; the fringe hanging over her left eye. The neck length tips were gathered in batches, the gatherings dyed purple. It was a good match for her oversized purple jumper, draping across wide shoulders and extending almost to knee length. In between, her face the colour of the snow that had fallen overnight; not pale, but typical of the cold winter savaging this part of the State.
“Sean, I’ll help out here.”
The defeated clerk withdrew; she then saw me, her face beamed her surprise.
“Hey, stranger, fancy seeing you!”
“Hello, Carragh, how you been?”
“Sorry, didn’t mean to upset the young guy.”
“He’s okay; maybe you didn’t hear him right.”
She pulled the earphones out and wrapped them around the appliance while offering the coy smile of someone caught out. My voice remained at its most professional.
“What are you here for?”
“I need a full birth extract.”
“Okay, I can do that, can you fill out this form?”
I handed her the pro forma for her certificate and my pen. I watched as she stuffed the Ipod in her bag to free up her writing hand. It was also my discreet way of learning her maiden name – I had known her only as Carragh Radicic, she had become a 16 year old bride a month before I had arrived on my first country posting.
The answer I needed was ‘Simms’. I typed her name into the computer and pushed the ‘print’ button to produce the extract certificate. As I did she signed the form; a flourish of her wrist finishing with the second ‘s’ of Simms as big as a capital letter. She then drew a triangle around the letter, the flat side on top.
Pushing the form at me with her left hand, I noticed there were no rings to be seen; maybe that explained the signature.
“Back to your old name?”
“Divorced last year.”
“Oh, sorry, I hope ...”
“Don’t be, all friendly.”
“Explains the signature, but why the ...
She leant on the counter, her voice conspiratorial.
“... the sign of the SuperBitch.”
I smiled and signed the document.
“You’re the boss here now, Stu?”
“Just for the moment.”
She smiled and nodded, I hoped she was impressed. She reached out to take the certificate but I kept my hand on it.
“Err, twenty four dollars.”
“Twenty four, oh.”
She dug around her bag.
“Shit! Forgot my purse. Umm, would you mind, you know, put it in? I’ll, umm, pay you back.”
It was an inappropriate request. But what happened next was even worse.
“Yeah, what the hell. Here you go.”
“Hey, it’s almost your break time, isn’t it?”
I looked at the wall clock; she pushed back her fringe.
“Well, why don’t you come home with me for lunch?”
“Sounds good. But, I’ll need to take my car to get back to town. I’ll follow you.”
“No need, I, umm, got a lift in, I’ll go with you.”
“Sure I’m parked at the back, I’ll meet you ‘round there, err, ten minutes.”
She smiled and tilted her head, giving me a little wave before opening the office door. She had small hands, even for a woman, but I had already seen what they could do.
I came to the town with a reputation as a better than average football (soccer) midfielder, adept at winning the ball, moving it up-field from the deep, setting up the play for the attackers. Before I arrived the club had been competent but never threatening, the acquisition the year before of exciting striker Marcko Radicic as the club’s only full professional brought hope that the inability to trouble the opposing goalkeeper could be at an end. They did well and in the year I joined, Marcko dominated the forward line, my job being to make sure he could get good ball. We won the district knockout and the league; the dominance of Marcko and I in the side rewarded with our selection in the District XI.
Carragh had been an underage junior sports star at 12 and 13, the apparent effortless strength she could put behind the discus and shot put attracted national attention. Years later I heard a story that at 13 she benched 220 kg at 42 kg bodyweight without so much as a weight belt; a freakish achievement never bettered as she refused to walk into a gym again.
The young wife I had met a decade back was the duckling changing into a swan. Her shoulders were a little broader than most but their width was accentuated by an impossibly small waist; small hips; a firm peach-like derriere on a 170 cm frame. Under those broad shoulders appeared a strong chest and firm C cups breasts. I could only guess at the tightness of the abdominal muscles; her arms and legs looked hard with toned muscle, not significant but always noticeable.
The Marcko and Carragh romance burst to flame and was consummated within hours of meeting. Almost straight away they were engaged and then married within three months. It gave all the signs of a true love match.
As I left the office a little early I saw her standing near the car park with her back to me; her head bowed as if talking into a phone. The shoulders looked broader than I could remember; what I hadn’t noticed inside was her legs. The bulky jumper extended to just above the knees, she wore lavender stockings that tucked into small black boots yet it was the double barrel calves – pushing hard against the fabric – that demanded my attention. I had always noted her tight, toned muscle. In the eight years since I’d last seen her, those calves have expanded two fold.
Carragh heard me behind her and turned around waving me to come close. The conversation on her phone was agitated.
“Well, fine then, but he was your friend. ... Look, alright, I’m sorry I bothered.”
She ended the call; the sour expression told the tale. As she spoke she pushed her delinquent hair behind her left ear.
“That was your old friend, Stu ...”
“... Marcko. I rang him to say you’re down at the registry and he should catch up. ...”
She began to wave her arms in an agitated manner.
“... he starts going on about how ‘oh, Stuart will be happy to see your strength’, ‘Stuart didn’t mind your picking up the freezer’. Fuck!”
I started to think that things may not have ended that well.
“He found out about that?”
“Yeah, yeah, I ... oh, forget it, let’s just go. I don’t wanna think about him.”
I opened the door for Carragh and let her ease into the seat; my chivalry acknowledged with a warm smile. As I began to drive out of town I apologised for assuming that she still lived in the former marital abode. She did, but only just, a clean break would aid the recovery process.
“I thought of coming down to the city and looking you up, Stu.”
“Yeah but ... I didn’t know, err, you and that Denise, was that her name?”
“It was, ah, still is, but we’re not together.”
Her response could well have been ‘of course not’ as she was being kind. For reasons only my ego could fathom, Carragh had no time for Denise. My heart told me that even though Carragh was married, it was a reaction based on jealousy. My head told me that it was more likely based on the simple fact that Denise was a rambunctious personality, a large woman with a large voice and a party-stopping laugh. You would love her, or hate her. Clearly, Carragh was not a lover.
And in truth, I’m not sure where I was.
“So tell me, Stuart, who’s warming the other side of your bed these days?”
“Single man. That’s why I’m on relief staff; no one to get shitty when I’m never at home.”
She said nothing. I was hoping some plan might be fermenting in her brain.
We drove toward a level railway crossing; no way could I beat the slow moving four-loco train that began to cross in front of us.
“Coal. Four diesel locos, Carragh; that means at least 50 cars, might as well settle in for a long stay.”
I turned the engine off. She had other ideas.
“Fuck this, Stu! I’m not wasting time sitting here.”
Carragh jumped from the car, slamming the door after her. My first thought was she had opted out and would be walking back to town. I moved to start the engine; to chase her. Then the car shook. I looked in the mirror; I hadn’t been rear-ended. Suddenly, I felt like I was being lifted up, maybe near on two meters.
Suddenly the car was airborne; the train was underneath me, then the road approached. I braced for the inevitable impact which never came. The car stopped and shook again. It felt like it was back on its wheels. The train was now moving in the rear vision mirror. No cars were stopped the other side so no one could tell me what happened.
Except Carragh who had opened the door and returned to her seat; pushing back on her fringe as she did so.
“You gotta admit, Stu, this is a lot better.”
“Yep, a lot better.”
I restarted the car and put it into gear.
“So which bit’s freaking you out – the bit where I lift the car or the bit where I fly over the train?”
“Did you fly? It felt more like a leap.”
“Alright, yeah, my landings are bad. I haven’t got enough practice.”
“Strength-wise, well, you know what I know, although the car was a bit of shock.”
“I’ve moved on a lot from when I knew you, Stu, and I’m not just talking Marcko. I mean that was the whole problem wasn’t it?”
“He had a problem; what, with your strength? You never told me.”
I drove as we talked, I had not driven this road for good part of a decade but I still knew it better than the back of my hand.
She sighed, continuing to return her fringe to her left ear.
“It’s real simple; I was a teenager in denial. I met Marcko and he was the first guy to ever, umm, you know, and I just wanted to please him. Once, I told him how strong I was and he just said ‘No wife of mine is going to be like superman’ and I just went ‘oh, okay’ but it was hopeless.”
“When did he tell you that?”
“Aw, I lifted a fucking washing machine in, you know, just before we got married and he freaked. So I had to promise I’d never do it again. You know, like in that show with the witch who uses her magic and her husband gets the shits.”
“No, it’s got that blonde woman and her husband’s a dork because her magic always saves the day.”
“No, no, anyway, doesn’t matter. The big problem with me and Marcko is that my muscles keep getting bigger, I keep getting stronger and then all this other shit starts happening.”
“By other shit, I guess you mean that you can fly and stuff.”
“So you’re a work in progress, Carragh?”
She looked out the passenger window; turned away from me, I couldn’t see her face but noticed her right hand move quickly across each eye. I stayed quiet, I’ll let her think.
I did some thinking of my own. Thinking about what she told me of her parents. Anti-nuclear protesters, they joined Greenpeace and in the mid ‘80s were floating around the Pacific trying to stop the French from testing atomic bombs in the atmosphere. Carragh told me that her mother, ever the optimistic activist, believed that taking a sea kayak into the exclusion zone would cause to the French to delay or abandon ignition of a nuclear device. It didn’t and although suffering only minor burns, there was little doubt that she was affected by the fallout. Even worse – a week later she discovered she was five weeks pregnant.
Her mother never fully recovered from the experience and, now living in New Zealand, had been plagued with health problems ever since. I knew nothing of what happened to her father.
As we reached the turn off, she reminded me that I needed to go left. As I slowed, I joked that her ability to fly meant she could at least avoid customs when she visited her mum. She turned to me with a half-smile.
“She’s not going too well, Stu, I might try and get over there this weekend.”
“I’m sorry to hear it. Give her my regards.”
“Thanks, I will.”
“What does she think about the, you know, strength and stuff?”
“She feels responsible.”
I knew those tears had nothing to do with Marcko.
The road was a lot worse than I had remembered it. Floods through the area had left it guttered and pocked by pot holes. Still, it was an opportunity.
“Lousy road all the way from here, Carragh?”
“Yeah, they’ve done nothing since the floods.”
I pulled up and turned off the engine, turning toward her, I did my best effort at super-cool.
“I know a way to avoid getting my shocks banged up.”
She pushed her hair back with both hands and smiled.
“Yeah; so do I.”
“Great minds think alike ...”
She jumped out as I spoke, the door left ajar in her haste. I was ready for the shudder, the shake, the door slamming shut and as we rose into the air, the familiar g-forces of an airline take off. I was surprised how fast she could gather speed. As I started to relax and enjoy the view from fifty metres up, we descended – like a plummeting lift. It felt like free fall and while the deceleration did come, it was still a hard landing. So hard - the bang of the airbags activating cushioned any final forward thrust I might’ve experienced.
Carragh had my door open before I could unlock the seat belt.
“It was good.”
“What happened to the ...”
“Oh, just a design fault, don’t worry about it.”
“Good, I won’t.”
Her mood was up; she skipped along next to me as I walked across the front yard. The homestead had never changed from my first visit. More rustic than old style, well over 60 years old it would be better detonated than renovated.
“So you like my new hair?”
As she spoke she pushed the ends over her ears.
“I think it’s great, the colour matches your jumper.”
That had her smiling. Then in mid-stride she veered to her right.
“Hey, Stu, come this way.”
She strode out in front of me, her calves looking to explode at each step; my attention to them was not broken by her sudden stop and turn.
“You perving at my legs, Stu-boy?”
“Your calves have got bigger ...
I couldn’t pretend to ignore the obvious.
“... maybe twice, three times the size they were.”
“Everything’s got bigger, Stu.”
She skipped on ahead. Around the back of the house was the usual collection of miscellany you would find in any unkempt backyard, except perhaps the up turned armoured van. Did not think I would see one of those.
“Like my handiwork?”
“It could use a mow.”
“What about the truck?”
“I’d talk to your landscaper; I think it’d look better near the shed.”
She walked back to me, a wide smile, her strong left hand rubbed my right arm.
“Oh you’re a funny boy today, so I’m gonna show you a little trick. Now see the door of that truck ...”
“The one still hanging off the truck?”
“... that’s it ... now just watch.”
One of the rear doors had been torn away, its whereabouts unknown, the other was held by the lower hinge. She pushed her hair back with both hands; after a couple of seconds the middle of the door smoked, buckled and seemed to melt. An ever increasing hole appeared. She turned and smiled.
“I hope you put the safety on before turning around.”
“You’re hot today, Stu-boy.”
“Not as hot as that door. When did you start doing that?”
“Ages ago; didn’t you ever workout that I never boiled a jug when I got you coffee?”
“I was always too hung over.”
If I was ever drinking coffee at the Radicic house it meant that I’d been partying big the night before. My skills of observation were not too sharp the next day.
“Come in, I’ll make a sandwich.”
I followed her inside; the kitchen was the same as ever, more needing of a paint if anything, the appliances the same, in the same place. I watched as she bent over and stuck her head in the refrigerator, the jumper rode up, this time it was her hamstrings and the quads that got my attention. They sprung out toward me, consuming the space below her small waist, disappointed when she stood up and the jumper dropped back.
“Sorry, Stu, don’t think ...”
“Doesn’t matter; not a problem.”
She turned and smiled, tensing her trap muscles in a form of shoulder shrug.
“We spent a lot of time in this kitchen, didn’t we? ...”
She tapped the top of the freezer which sat next to the fridge.
“... remember this, where it all started.”
“And there I was so cool like nothing happened.”
Carragh put her hands on her small hips and looked me in the eye.
“You liked it; you started flirting with me after that.”
“Me? You’re the married one. I did nothing.”
“Aw, you’re always leaning on that table chatting me up, same as you are now.”
I decided I just had to know. I put my hands on her shoulders, just outside the prominent traps.
“You were always good company.”
I squeezed her left deltoid to emphasis my point. It didn’t budge. It was as if her skin covered smooth bulges of steel.
“Do you wanna see me in my outfit?”
“Outfit, too? You’re really following the script.”
“You’ll see why: read that.”
She skipped away to get changed.
My mind switched back to a time nearly a decade before. It had been one of our post match celebrations – beer, BBQ steak, more beer – and I was sent in to grab a handful of coldies from the ice box. Problem was my sobriety was long gone and I dropped a bottle, smashing on her tiled floor. To her credit she didn’t chastise me, rather as I hastened to pick up the glass she began to wipe up the expanding pool of wasted beer. Much had gone under the freezer and with little fanfare and less effort, Carragh put her left hand under the freezer and lifted the huge appliance at least 50 cms to mop the residue. Then it struck what she’d done. She put it back with a ‘clunk’ and looked at me in horror. I smiled and acted like nothing had happened, kept apologising for my clumsiness and tried to suppress a spark that had ignited in the pit of my stomach.
I was left to wonder in the days after whether I had seen what I saw or that the beer had beaten me again. I wanted to see more of Carragh. I wanted to know just what she could do. How strong was she? And when I mentally asked her the question, she seemed to answer with her eyes, as though she really wanted to show me.
Then came the flirting; the sexual tension.
I shook myself from my thought and moved to her freezer where she’d affixed a piece of paper with a magnet. I recognised the hand writing straight away. It was Marcko.
Thanks for what you fukin did to Abby’s car. That was a real fukin low act. I don’t care if your the fukin strongest ever, just stay out of my fukin life.
He was never one for spelling.
She reappeared in the outfit. As I expected, it was the archetypal ‘supergirl’ look. The light blue top with the patented ‘S’ in red and yellow in the middle, the pleated red skirt – oh so short it barely covered her bum – held in place with a small yellow and red belt.
And the muscles. My lord, she was buffed up like a toned bodybuilder – but not too big. Well, certainly not like a female superman or some weird ‘roid freak. Carragh was always a small build so as she looked now was exactly how I visioned a mature super-girl to look. Good, hard, defined muscle, broad shoulders thinning down to a tiny, tight waist of twelve pack abs; the look that Hollywood, TV and the old comic strips were always too scared to let us see.
“Carragh, absolutely ...”
“I know you like it; I knew you would.”
She threw up a quick flex of her right bicep, enough to cause a mound of blue fabric to jump toward her fist, then relaxed the pose to push her fringe back off her face.
“Umm, but no boots, err, and ...”
“No, no cape. I want to show off my back.”
She spun around, pushing out her lats as she extended her arms, the triceps jumping at me as she did so.
“I read the little note. What’d you do?”
She spun back.
“Oh that. Well, I caught him. ...”
“... yeah, this Abby’s one of the girls he works with. She’s a skinny little thing. Emphasis on ‘little’. ...”
“I get it.”
“... so he’s out for office drinks, I think he’s, you know, like been in an accident, so I go looking for him. ...”
I point upward.
“... yeah, course, and then I spot his car at this house and I look inside ...”
“Through a window?”
“... no, my vision, silly! I can see through things ...”
“Sorry, should’ve guessed.”
“... and there they were going hard at it.”
“Must’ve been a shock?”
“Yeah, but I was a good girl, I thought about setting fire to the place then I saw her car and so I put it up on the roof.”
“Of the house?”
“Yeah. Apparently she needed to hire a crane to get it off.”
Carragh laughed and smiled. She liked that story.
“And that was it then?”
“I reckon they’d been at it for a while. So, yeah, that was the end. ...”
She put her hands on my shoulders, replicating the move I made earlier.
“... But now you’re back in my life.”
Smiling, she pressed against me; having lost interest in maintaining her hair, only one of the velvet eyes could be seen and it gleamed at me in mischief.
I swallowed hard and spoke.
“I guess I have no secrets from you, either.”
She laughed and pressed a little tighter, her voice a little softer. Almost as an afterthought, my right hand moved to felt the pleats of the little skirt covering that small, granite hard behind.
“I missed it, you know, the way you get a big ‘S’ shaped vein when you go hard. I knew it was just made for me. ...”
I tried to push against her, maybe to swing her around and lift her onto the table. But I couldn’t move; that super-powered body didn’t even register my exertion.
“... and you know something else, Stu-boy?”
I croaked out a ‘what’.
“You know that time in the bottle shop; that was it, that was when I knew I wanted to be with you.”
It was only a few weeks before I was transferred away. We were organising for a function and as was often the case, Carragh and I drove around getting the catering and refreshments, Marcko off doing other things. In the bottle shop I wanted a case of a certain white wine the both of us enjoyed. The attendant couldn’t be more unhelpful.
Sent to look for the stock item in a large cool-room to the rear of the shop, we found what we wanted but access was blocked by a pallet stacked high with beer and mixers.
Without dropping a beat, Carragh lifted the pallet with one hand and walked it ten metres to the other wall of the room, much further than was needed. She was making a statement.
“I knew it that day, Stu, when I moved that pallet across the room and you went all hard, I knew you wanted me for my strength and my muscles.”
Bending further forward, her strength had doubled me back, lifting my feet from the floor as my back straddled the table. I thought (I hoped) that she’d decided it was time. Then and there. I moved to kiss her as just a light bulb flashed above her head. In a blink, her left hand scooped my 90 kg frame from the table and stood me before her.
“Hey, I got something to show you. ...”
She pushed back her hair and sprang away, waving her hand for me to follow to the back door.
“... come on, Stu-boy, don’t dally.”
Carragh eased her broad shoulders through the door frame and strutted at pace toward the upturned truck. I followed as fast as my stiffened back would allow. I thought that calling after her would give the feel that I had caught up.
“What’d you get out of that anyway?”
“About twenty grand. But it’s got this metal stuff. Watch what I can do.”
There was a meter-wide round hole in the side of the truck which I hadn’t noticed before. Carragh looked inside and bent down, her skirt riding up to expose that smooth, silky white arse to the sunlight. I smiled. I just couldn’t imagine it any other way.
“See, here. ...”
Her voice came from inside the truck.
“... it’s some sort of steel bar.”
She ducked back out and turned to me, holding the bar up and smiling. As she pushed the short sleeves of her outfit up over her biceps, I held out my hand to take it off her. But her mind was made of mischief.
“Now you see it, and now ...”
Holding the ends of the bar between her palms, the biceps tensed and bulged and with a look of determination, Carragh forced the ingot into a round object maybe half the size of a baseball. Biting her bottom lip, the eight fingers and two thumbs squeezed the ball until I could see it glow red, then white, then smoke.
“... it starts to melt.”
The molten metal dripped from between her hands: the smoking residue sizzled as it hit the grass. The heat of her mini-hearth was such that I took an involuntary step back.
“Shit, Carragh. Why don’t your hands burn, that must be thousands of degrees of pressure?”
She stopped and looked at me.
“Well, maybe the same reason why I can melt the thing in the first place; just because I can.”
It was a silly answer spoken with a mock disdain. Then again, everything I’d discovered that day didn’t make a lot of sense. Why did I bother about it now?
The remaining metal was discarded when it was golf ball size, dropped into the superhot goo in front of her. Squeezing her hands together until I heard her knuckles crack, she held them up for me: not a trace of residue. She was chuffed.
“You reckon Sabrina could do that for Darrin?”
“You mean Samantha.”
“I mean you want me to do it again? It’s pretty easy.”
“Umm, you know Carragh I wanted to see that ingot you just melted, I think it’s silver.”
“Oh, yeah, silver, so what?”
“Well, with this global recession thingy, silver and gold prices are going through the roof. I mean, each bar could be worth a hundred grand.”
“Wow, and there’s twenty or more of them in here!”
“Thing is, they’re no good to you in this country because only a handful of places buy them and they’ll know they’re, umm, hot. However ...”
“... I know a guy in Singapore. If we can get rid of the numbers, we could be in luck.”
“That’s why I love you.”
“Come on, let’s get comfortable.”
I exhaled hard.
“I’ll, ah, have to do something with work.”
“Aw, just call them.”
I started walking toward the car, parked, as it was, some twenty metres away; she called out from behind me.
“Hey ... Stu ... you’re not going are you? ... Hey! ... Stuart!”
I held up my left hand as an acknowledgement then stretched my arm to open the front passenger door. Suddenly the sound of a hiss; the front passenger tyre smoked and burst.
I reached inside, closed the door and walked back toward her.
“You left your bag in the car.”
With the hair back over her left eye, I could see the right one had gone misty.
“Sorry, I, umm, thought, err, you were going to leave me.”
“I’m not going anywhere without you, Carragh. My car’s fucked with the airbags blown.”
“Oh ... okay then.”
She was smiling wide, pushing her hair back and turning to skip toward the house. I followed in her wake realising how Marcko had got it wrong: she’s really SuperCrazyBitch.
Back at the kitchen table her small but oh-so-mighty right hand dipped into the open bag and retrieved her phone.
“Ring them on this. I don’t have a land line.”
I didn’t bother to ask the obvious and having resolved to play truant I told work that I’d been in a small accident and would be out of action for the rest of the week.
That was more than the sniff of truth.
“Now we’ve got three days together, Carragh. No other commitments.”
“Just you, me and my big ol’ bed, lover.”
“Still going to New Zealand?”
“I think I should. Hey, what about you coming too?”
“The in-flight movie.”
She reached up, her arms around my neck.
“Forget the movie, Stu-boy; you’re in for the ride of your life.”