When Dogs CryMarkus Zusak
markus zusak is the author of five books, including The Messenger and the international bestseller, The Book Thief, which is translated into thirty languages. He lives in Sydney with his wife and daughter.
Also by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief
Special thanks to Anna McFarlane for her faith in my writing.
First published 2001 in Pan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited
1 Market Street, Sydney Copyright (c) Markus Zusak 2001, 2010
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.
National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication data: Zusak, Markus, 1975- .
When dogs cry.
ISBN 978 0 330 40373 3.
Typeset in 11/15 pt Sabon by Post Pre-press Group
Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group Papers used by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.
These electronic editions published in 2010 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
1 Market Street, Sydney 2000
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When Dogs Cry
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and for Mum and Dad
IT WAS RUBE'S GIRL'S IDEA TO MAKE THE BEER ICE BLOCKS, not mine.
Let's start with that.
It just happened to be me that lost out because of it.
See, I'd always thought that at some point I'd grow up, but it hadn't happened yet. It's just the way it was.
In all honesty, I'd wondered if there would ever come a time when Cameron Wolfe (that's me) would pull himself together. I'd seen glimpses of a different me. It was a different me because in those increments of time I thought I actually became a winner.
The truth, however, was painful.
It was a truth that told me with a scratching internal brutality that I was me, and that winning wasn't natural for me. It had to be fought for, in the echoes and trodden footprints of my mind. In a way, I had to scavenge for moments of alrightness.
I touched myself.
(There are people who've told me that you shouldn't admit that sort of thing too early, on account of the fact that people might get offended. Well, all I can say to that is why the hell not? Why not tell the truth? Otherwise there's no bloody point really, is there?
It was just that I wanted to be touched by a girl some day. I wanted her to not look at me as if I was the filthy, torn, half-smiling, half-scowling underdog who was trying to impress her.
In my mind, they were always soft, falling down my chest to my stomach. Her nails would be on my legs, just nice, handing shivers to my skin. I imagined it all the time, but refused to believe it was purely a matter of lust. The reason I can say this is that in my daydreams, the hands of the girl would always end up at my heart. Every time. I told myself that that's where I wanted her to touch me.
There was sex, of course.
Wall to wall, in and out of my thoughts.
But when it was over it was her whispering voice I craved, and a human curled up in my arms. For me though, it just wasn't a mouthful of reality. I was swallowing visions, and wallowing in my own mind, and feeling like I could happily drown inside a woman.
God, I wanted to.
I wanted to drown inside a woman in the feeling and drooling of the love I could give her. I wanted her pulse to crush me with its intensity. That's what I wanted. That's what I wanted myself to be.
The only mouthfuls I got were a glance here and there, and my own scattered hopes and visions.
The beer ice blocks.
I knew I was forgetting something.
It had been a warm day for winter, though the wind was still cold. The sun was warm, and kind of throbbing.
We were sitting in the backyard, listening to the Sunday afternoon football coverage, and quite frankly, I was looking at the legs, hips, face and breasts of my brother's latest girlfriend.
The brother in question is Rube (Ruben Wolfe), and in the winter I'm talking about, he seemed to have a new girlfriend every few weeks or so. I could hear them sometimes when they were in our room--a call or shout or moan or even a whisper of ecstasy. I liked his latest girl from the start, I remember. Her name was nice. Octavia. She was a street performer, and also a nice person, compared to some of the scrubbers Rube had brought home.
We first met her down the harbour one Saturday afternoon in late autumn--and she was playing a harmonica so people would throw money into an old jacket that was sprawled out at her feet. There was a lot of money in it and Rube and I watched her because she was damn good and could really make that harmonica howl. People would stand around sometimes and clap when she was done. Even Rube and I threw money in at one point, just after an old bloke with a walking stick and just before some Japanese tourists.
Rube looked at her.
She looked at him.
That was usually all it took, because that was Rube. My brother never really had to say anything or do anything. He just had to stand somewhere or scratch himself or even trip up a gutter and a girl would like him. It was just the way it was, and it was that way with Octavia.
'So where y' livin' these days?' Rube had asked her.
I remember the ocean green of her eyes rising then. 'Down south, in Hurstville.' He had her then already. I could tell. 'You?'
And Rube had turned and pointed. 'You know those crappy streets past Central Station?'
'Well that's us.' Only Rube could make those crappy streets sound like the best place on earth--and with those words, Rube and Octavia had begun.
One of the best things about her was that she actually acknowledged my existence. She didn't look at me as if I was an obstacle stuck between her and Rube. She would always say, 'How's it goin' Cam?'
The truth is.
Rube never loved any of them.
He never cared about them.
He just wanted each one because she was next, and why not take the next thing if it was better than the last?
Needless to say, Rube and I aren't too much alike when it comes to women.
I'd always liked that Octavia.
I liked it when we went inside that day and opened the fridge to see three-day-old soup, a carrot, a green thing and one VB can sitting inside. All three of us bent down and stared.
It was Rube who said it, sarcastically.
'What is that?' Octavia asked.
'That green thing.'
'I wouldn't have a clue.'
'Too big,' I said.
'What the hell is it?' Octavia asked again.
'Who cares?' Rube butted in. He had his eye on the VB. Its label was the only green thing he was staring at.
'That's Dad's,' I told him, still looking into the fridge. None of us moved.
'So he went with Mum and Sarah to watch Steve's football game. He might want it when he comes home.'
'Yeah, but he might also buy some on the way.'
Octavia's breast brushed my shoulder when she turned and walked away. It felt so nice it made me quiver.
Immediately, Rube reached in and grabbed the beer. 'It's worth a shot,' he stated. 'The old man's in a good mood these days anyway.'
He was right.
This time last year he was pretty miserable on account of having no work. This year he had plenty of work, and when he asked me to help on the odd Saturday or two, I helped him. So did Rube. My father's a plumber.
Each of us sat at the kitchen table.
And the beer, sitting in the middle of the table, sweating.
Rube asked it.
'Well what the hell are we gonna do with this beer you stupid bastard?'
'Settle down, will y'.'
We all smiled, wryly.
Even Octavia smiled, because she'd grown used to the way Rube and I spoke to each other, or at least, the way Rube spoke to me.
'Do we split it three ways?' Rube continued. 'Or just pass it round?'
That was when Octavia had her great idea.
'How 'bout we make it into ice blocks?'
'Is that some kind of sick joke?' Rube asked her.
'Of course not.'
'Beer ice blocks?' Rube shrugged and considered it. 'Well, I s'pose. It's warm enough, ay. Have we got any of those plastic ice block things? You know, with the stick?'
Octavia was already in the cupboards though, and she found what she was after. 'Pay dirt,' she grinned (and she had a lovely mouth, with straight, white, sexy teeth).
This was serious now.
Rube opened the beer and was about to pour it out, in equal amounts, of course.
'Shouldn't we wash 'em out or somethin'?'
'Well they've prob'ly been in that cupboard for ten years.'
'So they're probably all mouldy and mangy, and--'
'Can I just pour the goddamn beer!?'
We all laughed again, through the tension, and finally, painstakingly, Rube poured three equal portions of beer into the ice block containers. He fixed the stick on each of them so they were straight down.
'Right,' he said. 'Thank Christ for that,' and he walked slowly to the fridge.
'In the freezer bit,' I told him.
He stopped, mid-walk, turned slowly and carefully back round and said, 'Do you seriously think I'm pathetic enough to put beer which I just took from the fridge and poured into ice blocks back in just the fridge?'
'Y' never know.'
He turned away again and kept walking. 'Octavia, open the freezer, will y'.'
She did it.
Then it was just a matter of waiting for them to set.
We sat around in the kitchen for a while, until Octavia spoke, to Rube.
'You feel like doin' something?' she asked him. With most girls, that was my cue to leave. Octavia though, I wasn't sure. I just cleared out anyway.
'Where y' goin'?' Rube asked me.
I went out of the kitchen, took my jacket for later and walked onto the front porch. Half out the door, I mentioned, 'Maybe down the dog track. Maybe just out wanderin'.'
'See y' later Cam.'
With a last look at Rube and a glance at Octavia, I could see desire in each of the eyes I met. Octavia had desire for Rube. Rube just had desire for a girl. Pretty simple really.
'See y's later,' I said, and walked out.
The flyscreen door slammed behind me.
My feet dragged.
I reached each arm into the jacket.
Hands in pockets.
Soon evening worked its way into the sky and the city hunched itself down. I knew where I was going. Without knowing, without thinking, I knew. I was going to a girl's place. It was a girl I had met last year at the dog track.
She liked Rube.
She'd even called me a loser once when she was talking to him, and I'd listened in as my brother smacked her down with words and shoved her away.
What I'd been doing lately was standing outside her house, across the road. I stood and stared and watched and hoped. And I left, after the curtains were drawn for a while. Her name was Stephanie.
That night, which I think of now as the beer ice block night, I stood and stared a bit longer than usual. I stood and imagined walking home with her and opening the door for her. I imagined it hard, till a reaching pain pulled me inside out.
Soul on the outside.
It was a fair walk because she lived in Glebe and I lived closer to Central, on a small street with ragged gutters and train line just beyond. I was used to it though--both the distance and the street. In a way, I'm actually proud of where I come from. The small house. The Wolfe family.
Many minutes shuffled forward as I walked home, and when I saw my dad's panel van on our street, I even smiled.
Things have actually been okay for everyone lately.
Steve, my other brother.
Sarah, my sister.
Mrs Wolfe--the resilient Mrs Wolfe, my mother, who cleans houses and at the hospital for a living.
For some reason that night when I walked home, I felt peaceful. I felt happy for all of my family, because things really did seem to be going okay for them. All of them.
A train rushed past, and I felt like I could hear the whole city in it.
It came at me and then glided away.
Things always seem to glide away.
They come to you, stay a moment, then leave again.
That train seemed like a friend that day, and when it was gone, I felt like something in me tripped. I was alone on the street, and although I was still peaceful, the brief happiness left and a sadness tore me open very slowly and deliberately. City lights shone across the air, reaching their arms out to me, but I knew they'd never quite reach.
I composed myself and made my way onto the front porch. Inside they were talking about the ice blocks and the case of the missing beer. I was actually looking forward to eating my share of it, even though I can never finish a full can or bottle of beer. (I just stop being thirsty, to which Rube once said, 'So do I mate, but I still keep drinkin' it.') The ice block idea was at least halfway interesting though, and I was ready to go in and give it a shot.
'I was planning on drinking that beer when we got home.'
I could hear my father talking just before I went inside. There was an element of bastardry in his voice as he continued. 'A
nd whose brilliant idea was it to make ice blocks out of my beer, sorry, my last beer, anyway? Who was it?'
There was a pause.
A long one.
Then, finally, 'Mine' came the answer, just as I walked into the house.
The only question is, who said it?
Was it Rube?
It was me.
Don't ask me why, but I just didn't want Octavia to cop a bit of a battering (verbally, of course) from Clifford Wolfe, my father. The odds were that he'd be all nice to her about it, but still, it wasn't worth the risk. Much better for him to think it was me. He was used to me doing ridiculous things.
'Why aren't I surprised?' he asked, turning to face me. He was holding the ice blocks in question in his hands.
A good thing, trust me.
Then he laughed and said, 'Well Cameron, you won't mind if I eat yours then, will y'?'
'Of course not.' You always say of course not in that situation because you figure out pretty quick that your old man's really asking, 'Will I take the ice block or will I make you suffer in a hundred different other ways?' Naturally, you play it safe.
The ice blocks were handed out and a small smile was exchanged between Octavia and me, then Rube and me.
Rube held his ice block out to me. 'Bite?' he asked, but I declined.
I left the room, hearing my father say, 'Pretty good actually.'
'Where'd y' go before?' Rube asked me later in our room, after Octavia had left. Each of us lay on our bed, talking across the room.
'Just around a bit.'
'Down Glebe way?'
I looked over. 'What's that mean?'
'It means,' Rube sighed, 'that Octavia and I followed you once, just out of interest, and saw y' outside a house, starin' into the window. You're a bit of a lonely bastard aren't y'?'
Moments twisted and curled then, and off in the distance I could hear traffic, roaring almost silently. Far from all this. Far from Cameron Wolfe and Ruben Wolfe discussing what in the hell I was doing outside the house of a girl who cared nothing for me.
Then I swallowed, breathed in and answered my brother.
'Yeah,' I said. 'I guess I am.'
There was nothing else I could say. Nothing to cover it up. There was just a slight moment of waiting, truth and feeling, then a crack, and I said more. 'It's that Stephanie girl.'
'The bitch,' Rube spat.
'I know, but--'
'I know,' Rube interrupted. 'It makes no difference if she said she hated you or called you a loser. Y' feel what y' feel.'
Y' feel what y' feel.