Short Story: Everything Dies In The Summer

Adam Elovalis

10-15 minute read.

Everything Dies In The Summer is set in suburban Perth in the early 90s. All characters are fictional, although some events were based loosely on my own experiences growing up during this time.



(PS – if you enjoy this story, and you know someone who might also enjoy it, please share the link! Thanks!)


Don’t run from bullies.  It’s what they tell you. I think I remember even Uncle Stavros telling me that, and we all know how that went down. Maybe they tell you so the bullies can get you. Maybe they look after their own.

The old iron bell, almost 100 years old, rang out over the creak of the classroom ceiling fans as they squeaked and struggled to keep us cool. The heat mixing with the smell of chalk dust and pencil shavings seemed to cast a sleepy spell over our year 5 class, but it was suddenly broken as the bell rang out. School was done. The students’ trance burst and hurried sounds of the lesson being packed away caused our teacher, Mrs Stockland to raise her voice almost to a shout to issue final reminders and to dismiss us.  Freedom. This was usually my favourite part of the day. Usually.  Shouts and laughter began to fill the schoolyard as mums attempted to round up kids who were also busy trying to get a final chance to play with friends or swap marbles or Garbage Gang cards. Those cards were everywhere, and the corner deli was always busy after school with the year sixes and sevens buying lollies hoping to get the card they were after. I only had Stinky Steve and Blasted Billy from a $1 coin I found on the road one afternoon. I didn’t think they weren’t that good, but everyone else did, so I think I had them stuffed into my bag somewhere.

Mrs Stockland had asked me to pack away the sheets from our lesson, so I was last out, flinging my bag over my shoulder and tearing off, even as she told me not to run. I slowed to the fastest walk I could manage, so as not to get in trouble. Mrs Stockland just couldn’t bring herself to like me, even though she tried.  It was probably my family name. Dad said our family name was like opinions. Best kept to ourselves and don’t bring it up with others unless invited to. Hard to do when you have your last name on the class role. Having a strong Greek surname like ours, meant there was no confusion about who was family. Especially when your favourite Uncle, became the state’s first Greek elected government official. And the first one arrested, at the public launch of the local shopping centre. Something about corruption and threats. It didn’t matter that Dad lost a lot of money when he skipped bail, or that the charges were eventually dropped or that we no longer spoke to him, blood is blood. Family is family. Names are names. And although I forgot stuff all the time, when you want people to forget things – they seem to remember it even more.

I struggled to get my second arm into my bag’s straps, floorboards on the verandah echoing, as I headed down the steps, leaping down the last four and into the asphalt quadrangle area below. It was mostly clear of people now and carried the faint, sweet smell of stale beer from the cash-for-cans crates, as I carried on running past the old milk shed. Claire and Sam were probably behind it, kissing and I remember grinning in spite of everything at the thought as I glanced over to check on my way towards the school oval. I say school oval, but it was really a public park, connected to the school behind a cul-de-sac. On the other side of the park and over the road was the private school, St Marys. It was a well-known fact that all St Mary’s kids were all yuppies and thought that they were better than us. So we never talked to them.

I ran because I had left my brand new jacket wrapped around the goalpost at lunchtime, and when I put my hand up to ask Mrs Stockland if I could go and get it, she told me to put my hand down and get on with my work. I could just see the goals from my seat in the first-story classroom, and before I left, I made sure it was still there. Mum would get so mad if I didn’t come home with it. It cost a hundred and nine dollars, which I remembered because Mum never used to tell us how much clothes cost before, and how weird it was.  Most of the cars had left, and the after-school sounds had been replaced by the sounds of summer. Several flies whizzed around me as I reached the cul-de-sac, out of breath, and slowed to a walk. It was then I noticed Gavin and his mates.

They slowly made their way across the park, shoving and tripping each other and mucking about. It looked like they were heading to the corner deli, and they looked bored. It felt like a bad sign. They usually only picked on Jam and the other sped kids from the SLC, and I tended to join in when they did, but Jam was probably already eating his sped snacks at home with his family.  So it was best not to be seen. I angled away from them and the deli, and slouched down, keeping my eyes down at my feet, as they trudged onwards and I tried to look uninteresting. I crossed over the boundary line of the footy oval, and I remember noticing a stray popsicle stick in the boundary line, that had been painted white. It was almost invisible. If only I could be so lucky.

A scuffing sound and a whistle caused me to look up. “Where you off to Joe?” Asked Gavin, as one of the three boys kicked at a divot in the grass on their way over to me. I walked faster, but they closed in like rovers after the football. The summer sounds seemed to get louder along with my heartbeat, which swelled in volume as it slowly rose into my throat throbbing in rhythm. “Just getting my jacket,” I replied with a  forced casual shrug.

The other boys – Chris and Jayden –  scoffed as they reached me now, and stood in between me and my destination, forcing me to stop. Gavin was a head taller than me, and probably a head wider as well. He looked like he should already be in high school. I covertly glanced around, hoping to see a teacher or a parent – but it was a Friday and the after-school rush had thinned, no one was watching as parents stuffed their families into cars and fled the car park.

Gavin wasn’t a bad sort, mostly. We just left each other alone. He played football for the local team and was the best in the school. I played at school once or twice, but when I went for the ball in the pack, it felt like I was in a tunnel of people, bending over me, falling on me – and I didn’t like it much. Gavin scored four goals in that game. Another time, I remembered hearing his dad yelling at him as they drove away, something about a lunchbox. Gavin just stared into the back of the car seat ahead of him and didn’t even blink. I felt sorry for him at the time.

Dad says that when you’re afraid, it’s when you truly know what’s inside you, and It’s what you choose that can either get you deeper in, or out of trouble. Yeah, I was afraid. Of more than just the boys.
“Mrs Stockland is watching,” I said, trying to be confident in spite of my sweating palms, and hoping he was still in his classroom.  They weren’t smart boys, maybe I could just talk my way out of this.
The boys glanced up to the school over my shoulder, and then back down. Chris grunted. “It’s after school, Eenis.” He said, grinning as he mispronounced my last name.

I narrowed my eyes and tried to keep my voice strong.  “It’s Ennis. Didn’t your mum teach you how to read?”

“Yeah, at least my mum didn’t name me after a dick. Or were you named after your Uncle?” Chris seemed to inflate, his eyes gleaming as the others oohed at this new piece of ammunition.
The other kids laughed. “Uncle Eenis the penis.” They gesticulated accordingly.  I’d heard adults talking about my Uncle,  but kids usually didn’t seem to care about news like this. Fortunately. They just wanted a reaction. I knew they did, and I just couldn’t help blurting something stupid out in response. Real stupid.

“Aw, poor Chris. Too smart for the SLC, but too dumb to pronounce Ennis” I said with mock sympathy, “and your mum doesn’t choose your last name, idiot.”  Not a good move. Who’s the idiot now?
“That’s not very nice Eenis,”  Gavin said quickly, folding his arms and standing as if he were a teacher. Jayden laughed and poked Chris, who had stopped smiling. “You should apologise to Chris.” The crickets seemed to get really loud all of a sudden as all three of them stood in a loose semi-circle around me.  Yeah, I realised that I was well and truly in the shit now. Maybe a distraction?

“Look, I just want to get my jacket?” I said, a little desperation in my voice, and I pointed over his shoulder at where I’d last seen it, “My mum will kill me if I lose it.”

“Screw your jacket Eenis.” Gavin just continued staring at me, but I looked to where I was pointing and realised it wasn’t there. It was gone.  I gasped and took an involuntary step forward. Chris shoved me backwards, and I tripped and landed on my back on the turf, dropping my bag.

“Apologise Eenis! Apologise!” Gavin kicked at me, and something sharp on his shoe sliced my elbow, drawing blood.

I squirmed on the ground, trying to fend off a second kick from Gavin, that never came. Chris kicked my bag into me and got his foot stuck in the strap and stomped on my groin. I don’t know if he did it deliberately, but it hurt like hell.

I groaned, holding myself as pain seemed to embrace my whole body and hot tears welled.  The pain was bad, but I felt betrayed by the tears. Hot and wet, shouting my shame to the world.  “I’m sorry Chris.” I managed to get out through a sob. I hated myself for how I sounded. How I felt.

Someone, I don’t know who emptied my bag on top of me, and laughing about “Eenis’s penis”, kicked my bag again, stomping on its belongings before walking away.

I lay there until they walked off and then slowly sat up, sniffing and wiping my face. Dry grass clung to my arms and shirt, and I reached for my bag and started stuffing my belongings back into it as forcefully as I could.  I got really angry, angrier than I think I’ve ever been, and it came flowing out uncontrollably as if I was filling the bag with rage instead of lunchboxes and homework. I don’t know who I was doing it for, but it felt as if I had to prove to someone -anyone – that I could be strong and tough, and if I were strong enough – maybe I could paint away the image of me of lying and crying on the grass. I was such a loser.

Dragging up my bag, I stood and wiped at the cut on my left elbow as I slowly ambled over towards the goalpost and scanned the ground for my jacket. The siren at St Mary’s sounded as I did, but the jacket was definitely gone.

The oval was about to be swarmed with private school yuppies, so I started limping my way back towards my bike at school. I thought a lot about things on the way. I thought about facing Mum without a jacket. I thought about how I lay on the ground crying, staring up and caving in. I thought about how weak I was and how much my groin hurt.

The school grounds were almost empty as I walked through and collected my BMX bike. But when I got there, I wasn’t sure where to go. I couldn’t go home and face Mum. She could get real scary when she was angry. One time, she broke the wooden spoon on my backside, after I had done something really bad. I don’t even remember now.

Maybe if I ran away – then just maybe she would be so happy to see me, that when I told her about the jacket, she wouldn’t get angry. Mum generally only had time for two emotions at once. Love and whatever else she felt at the time. But when she was angry, it was hard to feel the love. And I think knowing that she did love me somehow just made it worse. Sometimes, like today, I wished she didn’t care so much.

I decided to head away from home, and down towards the river. Uncle Stavros used to live down there. When I was a little kid, he would push me in his hammock under the patio out the back. And I would crawl into the spaces of the limestone foundations and pretend to be SAS hiding from the Nazis. He always had cans of soft drink in the fridge, and a twinkle in his eye when he said I could have one but don’t tell Mum and Dad.

I headed up and out of the school grounds, pedalling hard and trying to keep my backpack from falling off my shoulders. I knew I was supposed to ride on the pavement but I loved the feeling of speeding down the hill in the middle of the road. And anyway, it was a quiet street with a lot of trees. The council trimmed them low to keep them free of the powerlines, so they looked like green donuts suspended above the mostly dead, yellow, summer grass of the verge. 

As I reached the busy main road, I turned onto the path to keep up my speed and then pedalled hard to make it across a break in traffic. I got beeped at but I didn’t think it was that close. I didn’t look back after I made it across and I turned down the first side street. I was supposed to head straight home after school – so I had to get as far away as I could before Mum came looking for me, not that she’d have any idea where I was, but if she found me too soon, she’d just be even angrier.  I didn’t want to think about that. I headed past possibly the driest, loneliest park I’d ever seen. Just an overgrown sand pit and rust-brown monkey bars in the midst of a sea of yellow grass. Without water, everything dies in the summer here.

I was starting to doubt my decision. I’d never ridden to the river from school before. We never drove this way and I wasn’t sure exactly how to weave through the back streets to get there. I saw some little kids from another school playing on a tramp in their front yard, and an old man trimming his lawn with big garden scissors. I saw some girls riding on pink scooters, a kid shooting basketball in his driveway, and a teenager on a mountain bike. I looked at his bike longingly. An aboriginal lady walked past an empty phone booth pushing a pram overloaded with grocery bags and a crying baby. She yelled at him to be quiet, but her baby didn’t stop. I guessed that all mums must get mad sometimes.

I noticed that my grazed elbow was bleeding. Blood was slowly oozing down my arm, and my attention snapped back.  I stopped my bike, annoyed in front of an old broken house and looked for something to wipe it with.  It had weeds at the front about as tall as I was. I don’t think there had ever been a garden there, as the entire front yard was paved with uneven and cracked large concrete slabs.  There were several piles of overgrown rubbish in the front yard.  I looked through the smashed main window. it was dark inside but I could tell that someone had ripped up the carpets, and some floorboards underneath. I could see some beams in the floor which looked important, and rotten. The house felt more than dead, almost as if it had never truly come alive.  It gave me a bad feeling so I wiped my arm with some junk Mail from the overflowing letterbox and continued riding, leaving it behind.

I loved the feeling of having my bike and exploring somewhere new. It made me feel somehow bigger. The suburb was full of old laneways, some too narrow for a car to fit through, I went through these every time I could. They felt like a secret world, my secret world. As If I were the only one they would open for. Like they were on my side, looking after me. I was their secret, and they would not give me up.

I must have travelled a dozen or more blocks by the time I reached the street of my Uncle’s old house. I was hot now, sweating and considering whether I could hide my bag somewhere safe enough to collect later.

There was a small knee-high brick fence and a painted concrete path running up through the garden to the porch steps. The garden used to be beautiful. Lines of plants in neat borders surrounded layers of lush and colourful foliage. There were almost always delicious smells in the garden, and a dozen childhood memories came flooding back as I stood looking at it. It was a shambles now. Overgrown and dying in the summer heat. It was missing Uncle Stav too. Weeds had overtaken the garden, and the once neat edges of the garden sections had blended into each other.  There was junk mail piling out of the letterbox and Uncle Stav must have forgotten to cancel his newspaper delivery because there were plastic-wrapped newspapers strewn through the long yellow grass.  For as long as I could remember, he had lived here, taking care of the gardens. It was a house that had truly been alive. No one would know that now.

Somehow, the thought of this made me angry. I clenched my fists. It doesn’t matter how much time you spent over how many years. Gardens and people: Things fall apart if you leave.  I threw down my bike and surged into the garden. I gritted my teeth and grabbing one of the newspapers I threw it towards the house. It hit the railing and it was as if something burst inside me. I picked up another and another. There were so many things to throw, and I couldn’t seem to stop. I must have been trying to throw something more than papers, because it wasn’t enough. Part of me wanted to break something, hurt something and maybe even just feel something – something else at least. The cut on my elbow had opened again, and a line of blood had somehow gotten on my hand and left bloody fingerprints on the papers. After a minute or two, I stood there breathing hard, scanning the grass for another paper, finding none and reaching for a stone instead. I realised I’d gone too far the moment after I threw it. It fizzed and made a loud tack noise as it bounced off and cracked the lounge room window. A web of cracks spidered out to the edges of the frame.

I suddenly realised that I could be in big trouble and looked around hurriedly. No one was in the street. Except for one boy, not more than 10 meters away looking directly at me. Jam. The special ed boy from school. He was in the front yard of the house next door, it looked as if he had been standing there for some, quietly watching me. He wasn’t scared or grinning or running to tell someone. He just stood there looking. He kind of half raised his hand to wave, but gave up half way. He was just always so awkward. He had on his hat with the neck flaps, his socks pulled up and his shirt tucked into his pants. I wondered why his parents would let him go to school looking like he did. He didn’t say much, so the only reason we knew he wasn’t normal was how he dressed. He was still wearing his school uniform, just like he did at school. I didn’t know what to do. I just stood there staring back at him. Stuck. He walked towards the low wall separating us, leaned over it and picked up a paper I’d missed. He quietly placed it on top of the wall for me, turned around and without saying a word, walked inside.

As soon as he disappeared inside, I grabbed my bag, and my bike and tore away, riding as fast as I could. After several minutes, I sat under an overhanging bush in a lane far away from the house, hugging my knees to my chest and gulping in air and wishing I had a drink.  I thought about Jam. I didn’t even know his real name. We all just called him that because that’s what he bought to school every day. Jam sandwiches.  I thought about how Gavin would zero in on Jam and pretend to be nice, whilst mocking him. Jam would also just say nothing, just like today. It was only words, that’s all. I remembered joining in several times and how it felt good to be invisible, with all the attention on Jam. Laughing along with Gavin and his mates. But being invisible only worked for so long.

Maybe Dad was right, there was something fear had shown me about myself. Something far worse than having my groin stomped on, worse than tears and the blood on my arm. I had my own Gavin deep inside. It’s hard to run from, a bully inside. I had hoped that if I could fit in, join in – no one would see me. Running away just like Uncle Stav. I picked up a twig lying on the ground and began to draw in the dirt, as my questions multiplied and ran through my head.

I had never stopped to really think about Jam before today. Until now, Jam had been something more like an idea of a person. Like a cartoon character. He seemed like a different person to me now, without having changed anything at all.

I sat there in the dirt, under my bush for a long time, thinking. The sun had sunk low in the sky, the shadows were long and I decided that I should probably head back and face the music. I was done with running. Hopefully Mum would be worried enough that she wouldn’t ground me for too long. I wheeled my bike out of the lane just in time to see a familiar car’s brake lights suddenly light up, down the road and begin to reverse. I don’t know how Mum thought to come and find me here. But here she was.

I was tired of thinking, questioning and running. Home, with all the trouble I would be in, suddenly seemed like the best place I could be. At least I wouldn’t have to ride home up all those hills. As mum reversed towards me, I stood up in the fading light of the late summer afternoon and faced home.


Sign up to receive updates on new stories / and books

Leave a comment


Art direction and brand strategy


Fiction author and blog

Copyright 2020 ©Adam Designs/Adam Writes All Rights Reserved