Anne plucks weeds out of the ground and thinks about exchanging her younger daughter for a son. Tara is aiming to transition before she reaches thirty.

Cross-dressing is one thing, Anne thinks. But this … this is another thing altogether. Hormones, surgery. She remembers that perfect baby body, a sleek little girl splashing in the bath.

She knows there are bigger issues at stake here, but her mind keeps stalling on what to call Tara’s new partner, how to label her. She can’t be a lesbian if Tara is a man. Can she?

Anne, feisty lesbian feminist, has never felt more outdated. Transgender is the new cutting edge. She shudders at the idea of cutting and yanks at a spreading network of burr clover.

 Julia appears waving one hand and clutching her shoulder with the other.

‘Get the vinegar,’ she shouts.

Anne scrambles up. ‘Vinegar?’

‘Ow.’ Julia does a little dance on the spot. ‘It’s that bloody paper wasp. It got me.’

‘But vinegar?’

Julia pulls the back door open and staggers into the kitchen. ‘Shit.’

Anne follows her and pulls open cupboard doors. ‘Are you sure it’s vinegar you want?’

 

Julia grimaces. ‘Bloody hell. It’s agony.’

Anne hesitates, bottle in hand. ‘It’s balsamic vinegar,’ she says.

‘Never mind what sort of vinegar it is.’

‘What about some ice?’

‘I don’t want bloody ice. I want vinegar.’

Anne peers more closely at the label. ‘It’s fancy vinegar.’

‘I don’t care if it’s candied with bloody liquid gold. Just give me the bottle!’

Anne is offended. ‘Well no need to carry on.’

Once Julia’s shoulder is generously coated in vinegar, with an ice pack on top, the pain eases. Anne puts the kettle on for tea.

‘It’s not that I grudge you the best most expensive vinegar,’ she says with dignity. ‘I just thought the candied-with-star-anise thing might interfere.’

Julia grimaces. ‘You know you’re in the first world when the only vinegar in the house is candied with anise’

‘Yeah. Where’s the Reckitts blue when you need it?’

‘What’s Reckitts blue?’

‘Don’t you remember? It was supposed to whiten the washing. But it was the cure for bee stings too.’

‘It’s odd though. I would have thought something like that was an alkali.’

‘So what?’

‘Well vinegar’s an acid. Maybe you were right and it wasn’t vinegar I needed. But it’s working.’

Anne snorts. ‘Chemistry. The blue-bag probably did nothing for the sting. It was the attention that did it. Mum fussing over you.’

‘Good old Mum. That’s what mums are for.’

‘When they aren’t being oppressive.’

Julia has been the partner of a mother for a long time. She doesn’t mistake this remark for a generality. ‘Who have you been oppressing today?’

‘Oh well. Just worrying about Tara.’

‘Of course. And you know that it’s the mother’s duty to oppress her daughter. No point trying to duck. Whatever happens, it’s your fault.’

‘Put the expensive vinegar back in the cupboard,’ Anne says and stalks back to the garden.