Page 5 - Provocation
P. 5

then demonstrate her ability to eat, wash, move in a healthy rhythm. That’s what they called it.
Not a routine, not a regime—a rhythm. Maddi hated it. It was gross, the way the clinic staff talked
about her body’s every function, every unpredictable need. For years, she had lived by her own
simple set of rules.

But still, the gentle pulse of life got into her bones as rhythms do. They had drummed wellness
into her. She learned to like her wrists and ankles, even to admire the muscular twist of her half-
turned waist, instead of always and only seeing fold upon fold of fat. She was a success. A poster
girl for the program, although she knew they’d used models for the posters in the reception.

Her hands rested on the wooden slats beside her. She rotated her wrists slowly, watching the
sunlight move across her subtle pelt of fine hairs. Her veins still stood out, great vines clinging to
her thin bones. Even so, she knew she was well. The sick part of her had been relieved, reduced,
reconciled. The compulsion that had become lodged like a touchstone in her belly—making her
always full, always empty—had shrunk and all but dissolved.

And this newly brokered peace between her body and her mind gave rise to the sweetest dreams,
budding upon the most delicate tendrils of new hope.

A clipboard, swipecard, and the visual equivalent of perfect pitch—they were the tools of her
trade. Every day, sometimes for hours, she was down in the dock, taking stock. It was no good for
her down here, Madeleine knew. No good for her asthma. The place looked clean; cement floors
bleached to chalk and leaf-blower bare. But the flood smell lingered, lodged deep in the damp
core of thick concrete walls.

Three stories high, room for ten fully loaded semi-trailers parked two deep and five wide, the
transit amphitheatre formed the throbbing heart of the gallery’s subterranean network. From
there, the rabbit maze led off through a dozen different doors to a hundred different places.

Ticked the last items off her list—five pristine skyblue wheelie bins overflowing with plush
Australian animals—and checked her watch. Peered around the dock. Listened carefully. Silence,
except for the utility thrum of vent units housed next door. Lance was in the Dock Control office,
headphones on, eyes locked on screen. Probably watching a movie. She knew that’s how he
stayed sane, shut up down here all day.

No one else around. She patted a fuzzy Tassie Devil, smiled.

A thick whiff of faecal mould stink and her lungs locked up. Her yoga breathing kicked in
automatically, belly-billows slowly pumping long, constricted in- and out- breaths through the
wheezing passages in her chest. She glanced at her fingernails, gnawn raw but still pink. Okay for
now. When she was little, the heavy courses of steroids that saved her life also left her stunted
and plump with bile. From an everyday laughing treasure of a girl, within a few short months she
became a dwarven Hitchcock silhouette of misery. As she grew older—never taller, always
rounder—she grew accustomed to the daily regime of tests and treatments. She learned her body
was a faulty machine. She learned to ignore the beat of her heart, the breath in her lungs, and to
   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10