At the tender age of seven, Claire knew, with absolute and unwavering certainty, that she would grow up and become Anna Cow Tent.
If asked, she would confess that she wasn’t entirely sure who Anna Cow Tent was, or what she did. But sometimes, when Claire got a lot of ticks on her maths test, or when she counted up all the coins in her piggy bank, her mummy would smile and say, “You could be an accountant when you’re older, just like your dad.”
Claire didn’t really understand—her dad’s name was Roger, she was pretty sure—but she was proud nonetheless, and resolved to would do whatever it took to become Anna Cow Tent.
She decided first to speak with her grandpa, who was wise and knew all the things there was to know. So she asked him: “Grandpa, who is Anna Cow Tent?”
“Well, your dad is,” he rumbled around a mouthful of smoke, his pipe held loose in his fingers. “Pretty sure one of your cousins is, too. And heck, I used to crunch numbers in my day, didja know that?”
Claire didn’t know that. She also didn’t know how there could be so many Anna Cow Tents. How could anyone keep track of them all? There were three Johns in her class, and sometimes that got terribly confusing. She would have asked her grandpa more questions, but somehow the conversation had turned to talk of Crunchy Nut cereal, and she didn’t get the chance.
So Claire turned to her teacher, Ms Deville, who seemed very good at answering questions, so long as you put your hand up first. “Ms Deville?” she asked. “What does Anna Cow Tent do?”
“An accountant does many things,” Ms Deville replied, clapping chalk dust from her hands. “Help people with their taxes, give advice about investments, organise finances… Oh, but you’ll learn about all that when you’re older.”
Now Claire was worried. She didn’t know much about taxis or wearing vests or—
“It’s a job to do with money, if we want to think about it simply,” Ms Deville added.
Claire soothed herself. Money—she understood money. She knew what each pretty colour meant. She knew that each coin was a different size. She knew that if you found a penny, you pick it up and all day long you have good luck. Claire even knew that Australia didn’t use pennies anymore, but her Grandma liked to sing the rhyme for any coin regardless.
Yes, Claire liked learning about money. If that’s what it took to become Anna Cow Tent, she could do it.
(Would she be known as Claire Cow Tent, she wondered, or did she have to use the whole name? She hoped Anna O’Connor in her class didn’t mind sharing.)
Claire’s sister, Tasia, being three years older than her, was far wiser and more learned than she herself, and would undoubtedly be able to teach her everything she needed to know about money. Claire found her sprawled on her bedroom floor, tongue poking through her teeth as she scribbled out her homework answers.
“Tasia,” Claire said, “Do you know about money? Like Anna Cow Tent?”
“Sure,” Tasia shrugged. “I got twenty dollars for my birthday.”
“That’s the red one,” Claire said helpfully.
Tasia rolled her eyes. “Duh.”
“So can you teach me some stuff? About money?”
“Please, Tas!” Claire cried, crouching down to poke her for good measure. “It’s important!”
“I can’t,” Tasia said. “I don’t like maths. It’s dumb. Listen to this!” She swept her eraser shavings from the page and recited, “Billy wants to buy a new bike. He—”
“What?” Tasia snapped.
“Billy,” Claire said. “Who is he?”
“I… I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. He wants a bike, okay?” Tasia cleared her throat and continued, “He could choose a Mongoose for $307, or a Trek for $287. How much money—”
“That’s not what they cost.”
Tasia’s eye twitched. “It. Doesn’t. Matter. But I need to work out how much money stupid Billy would save if he bought the stupid Trek bike instead of the stupid—”
“He’d save twenty dollars if he got the Trek bike,” Claire repeated.
“Oh,” Tasia said. Without another word, she flipped her pencil and rubbed viciously at the page.
“Twenty dollars,” Claire whispered.
“I got it.”
“…That’s the red one.”
Miserably, Claire slumped into the lounge room, pulled the cushion out from behind her dad’s back, tossed it unceremoniously onto the couch and collapsed atop it. If she pushed her face in deep enough, it made everything seem soft and muffled and—
A finger tapped the back of her head. Moaning with the tremendous effort of emerging from her cushion cave, Claire lifted her eyes to her dad, who seemed to be trying very hard not to smile.
“You ‘kay?” he asked.
“Tasia won’t teach me about money.”
“Ah,” he nodded sagely. “And… why do you need to learn about money?”
“So I can become Anna Cow Tent,” Claire said. “Like you.”
Her dad grinned. “Is that right?”
He ruffled her hair in that special way that she hated and loved at the same time. “That’s great, kid. But you know, you’ve got plenty of time to learn about money and maths and all that stuff. There’s no rush.”
Claire frowned. “Are you sure?”
“Oh,” Claire said. “Well. That’s good. I like the coins, but I’m not sure I really wanted to learn about taxis yet.”
Her dad blinked. “Okay.”
Claire jumped to her feet with a smile. “In that case, I’ll keep being Claire. You don’t have to call me Anna until I know more stuff.”
She could feel her dad’s eyes on her as she left the room. It seemed like maybe he wanted to ask something, but in the end, he said only, “Okay”, and the odd statement went unaccounted for.
By J.M. Cochrane from Australia