The Acorn Patch was usually pretty empty in the mid afternoon on weekdays. Nobody really knew why it was called The Acorn Patch; all it had was some loping eucalypts and one of those plastic playgrounds that had begun to replace anything that could break a kid’s arm. The summer had dried the lawn down to spiky bristles and the bristles were worn away to sandy soil patches at the ends where kids played kick-to-kick. Still, Bayside residents called it The Acorn Patch all the same. The council even erected a big blue Acorn Patch sign to officialise the matter, as if to say ‘despite our sandy soil, we too can grow the big regal trees of the old world.’
It didn’t take long for the year eight Ruckus Boys from the middle school down street to deface the sign with cocks and tags. Ruckus loved The Acorn Patch. It was one of the few sanctioned places for cigarette headspins and foot-tasting beer. Stuff they were conditioning themselves to enjoy. On weekends, all going to plan, they’d scam money off their parents for a movie then take turns asking passersby to buy them a slab (ones with fast cars were the easiest to convince). The girls from the nearby sister school would often chip in for Lemon Ruskis and Passion Pop. If all went even further to plan, a few of the most Lynx-drenched of the Ruckus would get to make out with the girls to the tan-barky scrub behind the plastic playground. Ruckus would slobber on braces and fumble at the buttons of jeans. Then they'd smoke from crusted-up Powerade bongs and jump around on the play equipment they’d only recently outgrown; early onset nostalgia for and already misremembered childhood. They’d embellish and shriek with their newly broken voices then tackle each other to the ground.
Two of the lower ranking Ruckus, Martin Mackenzie and Neville Woodford had bailed on final period maths double and were hard at work defacing the only available space on the big blue sign. The higher ranking Ruckus had used most of the space but were at footy training and couldn’t finish the job.
‘Sick’ declared Neville, adorning his tag with a looping star.
‘Dope,’ agreed Martin, standing back in appreciation. Neville had recently modified their textas for maximum staining impact. He’d learnt about the process online. You just needed to replace the easily-washable posca paint with a mixture of two parts Blacktop Stamping Ink and one part nail polish remover. It was easy. The website guaranteed that no amount of chemical scrubbing would ever remove the stains. The problem with harnessing such a powerful staining agent of course being if you got the stuff on your hands, which was inevitable, there was really no way of removing it until your skin cells died and replaced themselves. Also, if you got dizzy from the acetone and spilled the lethal mixture all over your mum’s sink – as Neville had done last night – there was no use in trying to hide or clean it. Neville had settled on pretending he was in fact trying to spruce up his mum’s porcelain with a new shade of dark blue marbling, an excuse that Mrs Woodford had actually believed (or pretended to believe... or [probably most likely] tricked herself into actually believing). This was further confirmation in Martin minds (as if he needed it) that Neville’s mum was cooler than Martin’s mum.
‘The spot?’ suggested Neville.
‘Yeah sick,’ agreed Martin, having sudden and silent reservations about Neville’s looping star.
The Spot was a clearing in the bushes near the back fence of the Acorn Patch. It was sheltered enough so that no one could see you but still close enough to the middle that you could see what was coming, which at the hours Neville and Mackenzie tended to hang out there was usually girls from the sister school cutting across the bristly grass on their way home. The Spot was their spot, they’d even kitted out with a milk crate each to sit on. Stashed under Neville’s crate was half-smoked packet of Dunhill Blues sealed in a Glad Sandwich bag that he’d stolen from his mum.The early March heat was making their school shirts cling and their socks soggy and they were happy to be making their way to the shade. But when they got to The Spot they were met with an ugly surprise.