It was a big old blue Vauxhall sedan. Real leather seats, real timber window frames. Not that I could appreciate the importance of such things back then.
I was small enough that perched on that real leather back seat, I could just barely see over the bottom of one of those real timber frames. If I craned my neck I could get a view of whatever we were driving past.
If I stood on the seat I knew I could get a better view, but I also knew that was a bad idea. I knew it wasn’t safe. Seatbelts hadn’t been invented yet, or if they had, they certainly hadn’t made it to our corner of suburban Brisbane, but I’d had it impressed on me that if I was standing up and the car stopped suddenly, I could expect to fly through the front windshield. I was told in no uncertain terms that I wouldn’t enjoy that.
Even more important to my young mind was the knowledge that if my footprints were found on the real leather upholstery I could expect to get in trouble with both Mum and Dad. Trouble of that severity was something worth avoiding.
But yes, if I stretched myself up as far as possible with buttocks still firmly on the real leather, I could get a bit of a view.
One of the most regular views, and the first one I clearly recall seeing, was of the old cemetery on Gympie Rd.
Every time we drove past it, and I mean every time, my Dad would say the same thing.
“Look son, there’s the dead centre of Brisbane,” he’d say.
My mother would groan. Once I understood the joke – indeed, once I understood that it was a joke, I would laugh. I thought that puns were simply the cleverest things in the world.
I don’t know if I heard it somewhere and repeated it, or actually came up with it myself. I’d like to think it was the latter.
The Vauxhall was rumbling past the cemetery.
“There it is – the dead centre of Brisbane,” said Dad.
“Yes,” I replied. “People are dying to get in there.”
Dad roared with laughter. He had to pull the car over to the side of Gympie Road he was laughing so hard.
“Oh no, not you as well…” groaned Mum.
People have been blaming my father for my sense of humour ever since. Personally, as a writer I’ve always been grateful to him for it. I must admit, though, I have learned over the years that tomb many cryptic graveyard jokes can spoil the plot.