Writers Showcase

Mara Blazic

The SOS Dress

By Mara Blazic

So its eyes are a little crooked and its ears a bit wonky, but Bojana doesn’t mind because she loves how the electrifying blue paint covers the whole pussycat and how its long tail wraps itself around her little waist. She sprinkled and scrubbed and glued the gold glitter all over and it sparkles as she twists on her tiptoes in the mirror, delighting in her reflection between the cracks her dad made with the hammer when he thought there was a man inside the glass.

It’s taken Bojana weeks to create the big blue cat on her dad’s large white T-shirt. It touches her knees so it looks like a dress. She’d rummaged through her neighbours’ garbage bins down Botting Street for old TV Guides and squealed with excitement when she chanced upon one with an ABBA pin-up, the one with Anna from the SOS pop clip Bojana’s only ever seen in black and white on Countdown. She was thrilled to find the blue so bright. She wanted a colour exactly like it. She taped that poster on the peeling orange wallpaper over her bed and studied it every night.

As she admires her image now in the mirror she wishes there were more whiskers – the 

pussycat only has three real ones pasted on. Gilligan wouldn’t let her cut his, he freaked out when she trapped him in the tiny bathroom with her mama’s giant sewing scissors. First she had tried to just pluck them, but Gilligan went nuts, so she had to catch him again and clutch his neck tighter and snip carefully but quickly. His meows were so terrifying as he thrashed around in her grip, she ended up simultaneously stabbing herself and slashing Gilligan’s 

ginger-coloured nose. She’d actually managed to secure five of his whiskers, but only from one side of his face, then she lost two of them in the frenzy. She doesn’t know where Gilligan is today as he bolted like a cheetah when she unlatched the bathroom door.

Bojana enters the warm kitchen which smells of sugar and chocolate and vanilla essence. Ta Da! Bojana’s mama claps at the vision before her and hugs her daughter tight. She then pulls on her ears. Bojana hates this part of every birthday, it’s a Serbian thing, it’s for good luck, for her to grow up to be a smiley, healthy and good girl. Her mama wishes her a happy 

birthday and presents her with an envelope. Inside is a card of a pretty girl in blonde pigtails and the number ‘8’. Mama has forgotten Bojana is nine today. Inside the card are two five-dollar notes. Bojana can’t wait to buy The Best Of ABBA cassette at Target with this gift.

The slim table’s covered in paper plates and plastic glasses and chips and chocolate and Coke and Holly Hobbie napkins Bojana begged and begged her mama to buy so they’d match the invitations. She can’t wait for her party to start. Her mama hasn’t finished the cake yet – but by the time she does everyone will be here, with presents! 

I’d rather suck on hot hair rollers.That’s what Stef said when Bojana gave her the Holly Hobbie invitation. She wasn’t sure if Stef meant Pretty Polly hair rollers because her mama used to have those, but then one day she forgot to switch them off and they blew up. Are they gonna let ya dad outta the mental hospital for ya party? Bojana doesn’t know why Stef can’t say metal hospital – metal – not mental. Stef ripped up the invite and said she’d chuck it in the incinerator. This seemed drastic because the incinerator was a long way away behind the 

shelter sheds and there was a bin right next to Stef by the monkey bars. 

Bojana stole the small pot of Lagoon Blue paint at Lloyd’s Hardware when mama had to buy something for their broken lawnmower. She’d studied the different shades on all the charts and decided Lagoon was the exact colour as the pussycat in the SOS pop clip. She slipped it into her little handbag when mama wasn’t looking. She was twitchy and tense when they went through the checkout, but the man in the red apron didn’t notice. He kept smiling at her but she didn’t like the weird way he did that. 

Bojana had carefully sketched the outline of the pussycat with a thick black texta and then painted it with her toothbrush making sure she didn’t go over the edges. She glued Gilligan’s three whiskers to its face and drew the rest in with the texta. She ripped a couple of yellow buttons from her mama’s bathrobe and sewed them on to make the eyes. 

She stares at her birthday cake, then at the clock ticking on the lime green wall and then back at the cake. It’s almost two o’clock. Everyone was supposed to be here at one. Gordana, Snezana, Vesna, Vera and Veronica. They all said they would come, nobody said they’d 

rather suck on hot rollers. Bojana tells her mama what Stef said.

She holds her mama’s hand as they march down Botting Street and around the corner to Stef’s house. Bojana keeps looking down at her dress, marvelling at the way the gold glitter 

shimmers in the hot afternoon sun. 

The long driveway is parked with cars and as they near the backyard they can hear giggles and shrieks and Shaun Cassidy singing on a record player. Gordana, Snezana, Vesna, Vera and Veronica are jumping and bumping into each other on Stef’s new big trampoline. Bojana hopes one of them gets their legs jammed in the springs. She lets go of mama’s hand and charges home. In her SOS dress she scoffs down her chips and slurps her Coke and when mama comes back in a state she closes her eyes and blows out eight pink and white striped candles and makes a big wish. 

Some of the chocolate accidentally smudges on her blue pussycat and she wipes it with her Holly Hobbie napkin. She feeds Gilligan some cake, she’s relieved he’s come home and looks less freaked. Though, he looks funny without all his whiskers. She carves a tall slice of cake for her dad, they’ll visit him soon. She hopes he remembers she’s nine and not eight anymore. 

At school on Monday while everyone’s in the playground during lunchtime, Bojana locks the main door to the Girls toilets so no-one will disturb her. By the time the bell rings Bojana’s painted in bright Lagoon Blue – one large word on each of the toilet stall doors: STEF SUX ON HOT HAIR ROLLERS.

There. Now everyone will know why Stef couldn’t come to her party.

Mara Blazic lives in Australia. She’s been long-listed twice for UK’s Bath Short Story Award. In 2017 she was selected  for its prestigious fiction anthology, one of 18 writers chosen from 1,100 submissions worldwide. That same year she was Highly Commended in the Bristol Short Story Prize. In 2018 she appeared in the U.S.’s Atlantis Short Story Contest Anthology. She’s thrilled to be part of the Writers Showcase in the 2020 Stay-At-Home Literary Festival. She’s working on a novel set in the mid 70s about a Yugo-Aussie girl drowning under the weight of being eight.

Mara Blazic lives in Australia. She’s been long-listed twice for UK’s Bath Short Story Award. In 2017 she was selected  for its prestigious fiction anthology, one of 18 writers chosen from 1,100 submissions worldwide. That same year she was Highly Commended in the Bristol Short Story Prize. In 2018 she appeared in the U.S.’s Atlantis Short Story Contest Anthology. She’s thrilled to be part of the Writers Showcase in the 2020 Stay-At-Home Literary Festival. She’s working on a novel set in the mid 70s about a Yugo-Aussie girl drowning under the weight of being eight.