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Hami’s Lot

Hami was out of choices when his cousin pulled up one day and took the Amway cleaning kit from the boot of her Mercedes.

The council were restructuring and had laid off workers, although Hami had heard through the kumara vine that it was a result of overspending on the new golf course. Whatever the reason, the lollipop men were the first to go. Hami’s days of waving to traffic with an authoritative smile were over. That’s what really hurt.

With a shirt to match her Merc, Hami’s cousin sent him on a selling mission. “What else are cousies for?” she said as her window rose like a horizontal elevator, leaving Hami staring at himself in the reflective glass.
"Man, that should be me,” he thought to himself as she sped away.

Hami caught the bus and started his new job on the opposite side of town. At least in the new suburb everyone looked like they owned their own homes and, more importantly, no one would recognise him as he went door to door.

With his Amway shirt over the top of his sweatshirt, Hami reluctantly headed towards his first house. It was a typical white picket fence type, with a birdbath and plaster deer sitting on the front lawn. He tapped the gold knocker on the brown stained door and waited. A Māori woman answered. Hami was quite taken aback, he had already conjured up an image of a small pale skinned Pakeha woman with an articulate toddler in hand. But before Hami had a chance to let loose with his Amway spiel, he was whisked from the door by Aunty, as she liked to be called, and sat down at the table for a feed of boil-up, fried bread, and a cup of tea.

Hami sat and listened to a rundown of Aunty’s family history. Shares and the pig farm had all added up to a small fortune when her uncle Matiu died. He and Aunty, who was really Aunty’s aunty and she so happened to be named after, had raised her from a child. Uncle Matiu died of a broken heart soon after Aunty’s aunty died, which is why she decided to make a new start in the city.

City life had its benefits, she did Internet courses, accounting, stockbroking and even began her own investment portfolio. But Aunty missed her relations, she missed being able to chat over a cuppa. Hami now knew why he had been sitting at her table for the past hour.

After their cup of tea, Aunty took Hami out the back of her place and showed him the large piece of land she had invested in. It stretched for at least five football fields. Dollar signs rolled in Hami’s eyes. ”it’s worth a fortune!” was all Hami could stutter when Aunty asked what he thought.

“Gardens, streetlights, footpaths, parks and a neighbourhood all wrapped up into a dream, ready to be made reality. This would be Matiu’s Grove,” Aunty proudly announced.

As they walked back to the house Hami looked at his bag of Amway gear in disdain, he may as well have been carrying a bag of empty kina shells. But then the door opened to another thought. He quickly put the idea to Aunty. A caretaker role was how he pitched it. Sweeping paths, emptying bins, keeping the park tidy, cleaning windows, mowing lawns, painting fences. He could help make Aunty’s dream come true, to make Matiu’s Grove the best street in the city. A place where everybody would want to live. Aunty stopped and looked at Hami, beaming a huge smile.

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And so when building did finally start, Hami was there. Houses were raised, families were settled in and Aunty’s dream came to life. Matiu’s Grove was born.

Hami cleaned paths, emptied bins, replenished Amway stocks and painted fences. He made a modest living and was satisfied with what he achieved. But when his car died and needed more than a reconditioned gearbox, a quiet disquiet began to stir in Hami’s mind. He wanted more, breaking even wasn’t good enough, he wanted a future, he wanted a place to call his own.

Hami faced Aunty with his hopes and dreams. Aunty listened with patience, then finally smiled. She had recently built a new extension onto her house, next to the pool. It was self-contained and close to work, saving him travel and rent at the same time. Hami could move in when he pleased, the place was his.

Hami was overjoyed, but insisted he needed a title of some sort to feel secure in his future. Aunty had the small section subdivided and signed the small place into Hami’s name. Hami was a proud home owner all within the space of a month.

Everything ran beautifully. Hami continued to keep the grounds and surroundings of Matiu’s Grove in tip-top shape, Aunty kept having relations to stay and Matiu’s Grove thrived with happy tenants. Hami enjoyed saving his money each week. One Friday afternoon while gazing into the fish pond a realisation struck him. He was the small fish in the large pond. He looked down the many rows of houses that lined both sides of the street; he knew things had to change.

Hami decided that he would put his house up for rent and move into the garden shed. Hami had slept in worse places so he didn’t mind the cramped conditions at all, as long as the money was coming in, he was happy.

And the money did come in.

Hami kept his money in a steel box under his bed. He didn’t trust banks and liked to have his money close so he could count it when he felt the need. When one of the tenants from Aunty’s many houses moved out, Hami suggested he buy the place. Aunty agreed, she wanted some diversification in her stock investments. So Hami took his deposit to the bank raised a loan, paid Aunty off, and was then the proud owner of two houses on Matiu’s Grove.

As the years passed so to the ownership of the houses of Matiu’s Grove passed into the Hami’s hands. Hami continued to live in the garden shed and to save his money, Aunty kept up her stock investments and things ran smoothly. Whenever a tenant moved house, Hami was ready to buy.

Eventually, Hami owned all the houses on Matiu’s Grove except Aunty’s private home and the shed that he still lived in. Aunty was happy, happy that she had seen her dreams come true, happy that her relations still continued to fill her place and to stay as long as they liked, which for some meant years, and also happy that her stocks were doing very well.

Hami counted his money piles each week and watched his wealth grow. He fitted a safe into a hole in the shed floor when his money tin became too small, covering it neatly with a piece of board and carpet. ”Safe as houses”, was what he said to himself.

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It was when he was pulling back the piece of board to open his safe one Friday that he was bitten by the spider. He thought he’d been stung by a wasp and was annoyed that he couldn’t find the culprit. It wasn’t until two days later when Hami’s left arm, neck, and part of his face started to swell that he remembered about the sting.

After taking all the tests and staying overnight in hospital it was revealed that the spider’s poison had spread dramatically. There was nothing the doctors could do about the flesh eating disease except cut away the rotting flesh.

Hami came out of the hospital a disfigured man, hardly recognisable to those that knew him. Kids stared at Hami and whispered behind his back. Parents found it hard to look him in the eye when he collected the rent. One afternoon a small boy was so frightened when he opened the door and saw Hami, that he wet his pants. The tenants decided to move out. They gave no explanation except that they were looking for something more suitable.

Hami started wearing a mask to disguise his disfigured face, but that only made things worse. Other tenants joined the exodus out of Matiu’s Grove. Within six months, Matiu’s Grove was deserted.

Hami walked the streets a broken, disfigured man. When Aunty joined him on the park bench one morning Hami could do nothing but sob tears of frustration. Aunty suggested the Internet as a place he could possibly find a cure, or at least some of the best plastic surgeons in the world.

With Aunty’s help, Hami did find a clinic that specialised in flesh reconstruction for disease victims such as himself. The clinic was in America and would cost an enormous amount of money. Hami was desperate; he would spare nothing to return to the normal life he once knew. Hami flew to America with the blessing and support of Aunty and her relations.

Hami’s treatment began almost immediately, the reconstruction of his face, neck, shoulder and arm was an arduous task and extremely costly. His savings were soon depleted, but Hami wasn’t about to give up when the treatment was going so well. He signed his houses over to Aunty one at a time. Aunty used her shares and investments to buy back all the houses of Matiu’s Grove. Her relations moved in and Matiu’s Grove was once again humming with people and activity.

Six months after Hami left for the clinic in America, he returned, completely transformed. Hami was broke but happy, his health had been restored and a resurgence of life filled his veins.

Hami soon got a job with the council after the jobs were advertised in the paper. His first job was outside Matiu’s Grove standing on the corner with an orange ‘Stop’ and ‘Go’ sign. He smiled at Aunty and her relations as they drove by, truly happy with his lot.

(c) Wiremu Grace

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