Having washed her doll
Battered Betty in the baby
bath, Helen dries it in an
old towel her mother gave


her, rubbing it with her
childish motherly attention
to detail. That done, she
dresses Betty in some doll's


clothes her father brought
home from a  junk shop
on his way home one Friday.
She wraps Betty in a fading


shawl, and goes to the front
door. Where you off to? her
mother asks. Taking Betty
out for a walk, she replies.


Where abouts? probably
to Jail Park, Helen says.
Watch out for strange men,
her mother says. I'm with


Benedict, Helen says. O,
well that's OK then, her
mother says, relieved,
pushing damp hair from


her lined forehead. Helen
goes out the front door
and walks along to the
railway bridge next to the


Duke of Wellington pub
where Benedict said to
met him. She pats the doll's
back as she walks, tightens


the shawl to keep the doll
warm. Benedict is waiting
by the pub wall; his cowboy
hat is pushed back, 6 shooter


gun is tucked in the belt
of his short trousers. Helen
sees him before he sees her,
she prepares herself: licks


fingers to dampen down her
hair, straightens her thick
lens spectacles, wipes her
nose on the back of her hand.


Am I late? she says as she
approaches him. He pushes
himself from the wall, his 6
shooter quickly out of the belt,


he blows the end. No, he says,
just thinking of the Billy-the-Kid
I saw at the cinema the other day.
Got shot. Died. I wouldn’t have


done that, I'd not have turned my
back on the marshal whatever
his name was. Helen rocks Betty
in her small arms. Given Betty


a bath, she says, nice and clean now.  
Benedict gives the doll a glance,
puts his gun away in the belt.
Good, he says, can't have our


kid dirty. Helen smiles, no, we
can't, can we, she says. Mum
says to look out for strange men,
she adds as an after thought.


Benedict pats his gun, no strange
man will get to you or Betty,
he says determinedly. Just as
Mum says, Helen says quietly,


looking at the cowboy beside
her, his hat now pushed forward,
his hazel eyes focusing, on her
and the doll. Let's go walk, he


says, I'll give you and Betty
a push on the swings and
roundabout. So they walk up
Bath Terrace, she telling him


about a boy at school calling
her four eyes, and he musing
of putting a couple of slugs in
the kid's head: BANG BANG,


the caps will go, just smoke,
no holes, no death, or if he chose,
maybe a good sock in the nose.

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