Maja Rose

Maja Rose has returned to her hometown of lutruwita (Tasmania) having lived in London, Brighton, Melbourne, and Sydney. She completed a BA in English Lit/Media (Hons) at La Trobe University, and a Creative Writing residential summer at Oxford University. She has a background in screen production and currently works in the library at Risdon Prison.



My father, Otto, is gutting fish on a makeshift table in the backyard, a thick piece of wood with a surface of dusty splinters laid out on some iron contraption that in hindsight, maybe he keeps just for this.

Skrrth, skrrth.

The edge of his knife flicks scales off the plump bodies in easy, smooth movements of his nut-brown, knobbled wrist. Silver flecks winnow up into the air, caught for a moment by the wind before they fall into the grass. Tiny mirrors, reflecting nothing.

“Have you ever seen a squid beak?” he asks me.

He caught all yellowfin mullet, one calamari squid. I took a photo of the bucket, a mass of shining light in blue plastic before he turned the hose on them and the blood I hadn’t been able to see rose up from the bottom and turned them all muddy.

“I don’t think so,” I say, and come to stand beside him.

He rummages through the squid’s face. An eyeball pops out, and I have to look away before I gag.
Then he pulls out the beak, a little knot of black.

“See?” he says, making it open and close. “Just like a parrot.”
My other father, biodad, sends me a message on Whatsapp.

I’m about to board the plane now, darling. I’ll call you when I land in Paris, if you’re still awake.
Sometimes I wonder how we came to this gentle, easy way of talking. There’s a part of me that thinks it’s because I stopped caring. I no longer have expectations, so he can no longer let me down.

The day I saw him in Bangkok and realised that, in 25 years, I had never spent a night alone with him, I came to an understanding.

This is just a man. A man who you are only connected to through blood and semen. What a strange thing. What a pointless reason to be in this airbnb together.

But I don’t feel anger anymore. I don’t think.

Is it worse to feel nothing?

When I see that he’s landed, I don’t open the message. I’ll wait until later. It’s too early to call.


When I was very young, a year into Otto’s arrival into my life, we made up a game together. A friend had made a chaircover out of knitted soft toys, little clowns and dolls and bears that held you up as you curled tight and read a book (I had just learned how to read).

On the left arm, there was a tiny little postman, with a hat that you could remove, and a red satchel with a bone button that you could flick open with one finger. The satchel was very small, but big enough to hold a note, if you folded it up very tight.

The postman would carry notes between Otto and I, and I think I believed that the postman was also, perhaps, a fairy. Overcomplicating things for the sake of magic was a common pastime of mine.

Would you like a cup of tea? Otto’s note might say.
Can I call you dad? said mine.

I had an argument with dad after I first flew home from living overseas. My grandmother—biodad’s mum—had just died, and I’d scattered her ashes with my cousins on the river. Mum was in a new relationship for the first time in years, and it made me feel uneasy, unsure for the first time where I stood in my relationship to her. I felt like a kid, even though I was 29.

My grandmother dying was a reminder that I was on the outside of that side of the family, both because of my dad’s actions and my own. I had put up boundaries in my teenage years to stop myself from hurting, but it had kept me from connecting with the rest of the family, too. I felt guilty about having been away while she was dying, and guilty about having been away from everyone for longer than the three years in Thailand would account for.

Dad has had another daughter. I think she’s so beautiful, the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen. I was on the beach on Koh Kradan when he called to tell me.

On the other side of the world, the sky was orange and pink with sunset, and I had taken a photo a few minutes before he called. I’d like to think it was taken as she emerged into the world, and I had felt it and knew I should document it.

When I come back home, dad has too many glasses of red wine and tells me I don’t love him, or any of my family, because otherwise I never would have left.

“Say goodnight,” dad says to my sister, waving her chubby little hand at me. “Say goodnight to your big sister; she’s going to leave you again. And this time she isn’t coming back.”
Biodad told me that he’d wanted to marry my mum when he found out she was pregnant with me. He spun a fantasy that I desperately wanted to believe.

When I told mum, stars in my eyes, eighteen and stupid, she laughed so hard she fell to her knees.
“Oh really?” she said, still wheezing on the floor. “And when was he going to propose? Before or after he recorded our phone conversations to give to his lawyer?”
Dad holds the squid beak in his hand, clicks and clacks it shut as if it’s speaking. My sister runs up on steady legs, demands to see. Dad smiles at me, sunshine in his leathery face.

“Can you pick her up?” he asks me. “My hands are dirty.”

We stand together, all three of us, the fruit trees’ heavy perfume mixing with the tinny stink of fish guts. Dad nudges me, winks as he makes the squid beak clack in my sister’s face.

I wonder what he would say if I told him I was thinking of moving away again.