We hope you enjoy this brand new short story by Apirana Taylor (author of Five Strings, Anahera Press, 2017).

Marae Shuffle    

Just before the first ray of sunlight peeped in the door. ‘Karanga. Karanga.’ Clang, clang rang the bell. ‘E oho. E oho e te whanau.’

Aw jeez, these Ngati’s got no sleep kawa, I thought.

An arm of sunlight reached through the window. In the shadows and light on the other side of the whare shapes began to shuffle and wriggle. I turned on my back and gazed up at the kowhaiwhai on the roof above me. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a marae. Oh just one more hour’s sleep, I sighed.

Clang. Clang. Despite the bell some slept on. My cousin Hepa snored loud enough to blow the roof off and my bro droned away beneath  the pou of our tipuna.

Clang. There was no escape. I had to, maranga. I lay stretched out covered by my sleeping bag and surrounded by others who slept or began to shuffle making moaning noises and calling as they woke. ‘Kia ora sis.’

I stretched out my long arm and groped about for my overnight bag. My socks are in there, I thought. Grasp grapple. Nothing. The overnighter had disappeared. What to do.

I lay hidden from the world by my sleeping bag. Half naked and faced with the problem of getting dresed without exposing my wherewithal to all.

My feet poked up like tongues at the end of my mattress. My bag was just beyond my feet. I shuffled and stretched my leg and toes towards the elusive bag and continued to clasp my bed clothes about me. A similar shuffling and wriggling began on the opposite wall of the house as more manuhiri woke. ‘Morena. Waiata mai ra, Kiri te Kanawa,’ said Manu to her daughter who snored high as the top string.

At last I hooked my toe over my bag’s handle. I was amazed by the way I managed to crane it up to my hand, under the blankets, without being noticed as I twisted about in my mini lava lava.

A change of underwear and socks was needed and they were in my overnighter somewhere. In the semi dark I groped about for these necessary items. They were nowhere to be found. I emptied the bag beside me. Whose is this phone and whose is this lipstick. Struthe. It’s not my bag.

You idiot. I cursed myself. You left your bloody bag up by your pillow. There it is tucked away under your ancestor’s feet. I reached out. I released my sleeping bag with my left hand clutched the bed clothing with my right, keeping myself covered, as I stretched out with my left and grabbed the overnighter. The socks and undies weren’t in it.

I gave up. Somehow I’d worked myself into a tangle. One end of my lava lava was twisted around my collywobbles and the other was wrapped about my neck. I wriggled about in the dim shadow light and untangled myself. A couple more acrobatic contortions and I was ready to begin again. Off with the old and on with the new.

I found my undies and socks. They were beside me all the time. By a  miracle I kept undercover and wriggled into them.

The carved faces of our ancestors gazed at me as they looked over all who slept within the house. The whaikorero, laughter, songs and chit chat. They heard it all as they sat in the fields of tukutuku under the stars on the roof.

‘E oho. Kia tere.’ Wake up. Quick. I kite au te rangatira o te tangata whenua e tu ana ki mua i te tatau.

How could I get my trousers on. Right foot stretched toe wriggled. Hook the daks up from the foot of the mattress. Still undercover. Scuffle shuffle I wriggled into my pants. I sat up and put on my shirt.

I watched other manuhiri as they stirred and wriggled out of their cocoons. Beyond the door outside, I saw the tangata whenua gathered and waiting for karakia. ‘Me karakia tatau i mua i te  parakuihi.’

My shoes have disappeared. Where did I put them? Who shifted them? Who’s wearing them?

Clang Clang. Karanga karanga. As day dawned we answered the call and gathered outside the whare beneath the arms of our tipuna. I stood before the dawn in bare feet with my shirt on backwards, ready for karakia.