Ram Raids, Motorbikes and a Song

by Sandra Arnold

EVIE LIKES TO time her weekly drive along the motorway to the supermarket just as the sun is rising so she can watch the way it streaks the sky gold. Focusing on beauty instead of the problems of the world that blare from the news was one of the tips she took away from her Positive Thinking course. A golden glow in the sky helps her to appreciate things she used to take for granted, such as the privilege of living in a well-run town with its smooth and efficient roads, tree planting, and so many people working hard to maintain order and good service.

On this day, however, the sky is grey. No golden glow. She reverts to old habits and turns on the news. The newsreader is talking about a 95 year old woman with dementia being tasered by a policeman in Australia because she was wielding a knife. Next is an item about schoolchildren gunned down by a madman in the USA. Then, a six year old boy who found his uncle’s gun and shot his baby brother. Political turmoil in Brazil. Descriptions of  bombed and burnt-out buildings in Ukraine follow, each description more graphic than the last.

Evie turns off the radio. She’d forgotten why she no longer listens to the news. To lift her mood she remembers to feel grateful that she lives in New Zealand, not in a violent or oppressed country. Yes, there are problems here too, she knows that, she’s not blind. She won’t ever forget the sight on television of that protest in Wellington last year, supposedly against Covid restrictions. Far-right groups that she hadn’t known existed in New Zealand had taken their cue from the January 6 insurrection in the USA and hung nooses from trees outside Parliament, threatening to hang the Prime Minister. For three weeks they trashed the area, harassing passers-by with stories of vaccinations containing micro-chips that were part of a secret government plot to control the population. Finally, the Police moved them on, when it became clear there were limits to free speech, but not before the protesters had caused immense damage to the area. It was then Evie decided to stop watching and listening to the news and concern herself with problems closer to home that she might be able to do something about.

The main issue occupying her currently is the way productive farmland is disappearing under sprawling estates of ticky tacky housing developments around the rural area where she lives. She and others in her community have made several submissions to their local Council to object to this practice and they have been successful in getting a couple of those development projects halted. There are other social problems too, of course, she reminds herself, but at least people in this country don’t go around shooting each other and throwing bombs. 

She parks her car at the supermarket and walks up to the entrance. In front of the doorway she sees a huge concrete block. She looks back at the exit and sees one there too. They weren’t there last week. Are they for people to sit on? No, that doesn’t make sense. So what are they for? She goes inside, stopping to admire a display of fresh flowers, and asks one of the assistants.

The assistant’s mouth turns downwards. She glances to each side of her and speaks in a low voice. ‘They’re there to stop ram raids.’


‘Ram raids. You know, when people drive a car through the doors of a building at night and steal stuff.’

‘What? Here…? Surely not!’

The assistant nods. Three other assistants standing close by all join in the nodding.

‘Oh yes. It happened last week at the Box-A-Lot Discount Store just a few streets away. Didn’t you see the photographs of the smashed doors and windows in the local paper?’

Evie shakes her head. She doesn’t read newspapers for the same reason she doesn’t listen to the news or watch television.

‘We haven’t had a ram raid here in our supermarket, yet,’ the assistant continues. ‘But it’s best to be prepared.’

One of the other assistants says, ‘My uncle parked his motorbike outside Box-A-Lot  a few weeks ago. When he came out he saw a group of young boys swarming all over it. He told them to get off and they said “So what are you going to do about it?” He told them he was going to call the Police and he took out his mobile phone. One of those kids ran up and snatched his phone, then they all piled onto the motorbike and scarpered! The Police found the bike smashed up in a ditch the next day, but the phone was gone.’

Evie is open-mouthed. ‘Did the Police find the boys?’

‘Oh yes, but they’re under-age so nothing will happen to them.’

The assistants all sigh, shrug their shoulders and get back to work stacking shelves.

Shaken, Evie walks down the aisles, loading her purchases into the trolley, her head full of ram raids, motorbikes, shootings and tasers. There’s absolutely nothing to feel positive about when such things can happen, she thinks, her shoulders slumping under the weight of that knowledge. The Positive Thinking course was a waste of time and money.

Then above the tinny strains of Stand by your man on the supermarket piped music system she hears a clear voice singing a song she doesn’t recognise. In the next aisle she sees an old woman bending over the shelves. The song is coming from her. A few customers look at the woman, raise their eyebrows at each other and walk on by. The woman is oblivious to stares and raised eyebrows and carries on singing. It’s not usual for someone to sing in a supermarket in New Zealand, Evie thinks, and wonders if the woman has dementia. She looks very old and thin, her skin is deeply lined and her sparse white hair reminds Evie of the  dandelion clocks she loved to blow as a child. Evie stops to listen. The woman’s voice is clear and sweet. She feels the tightness in her throat begin to loosen. She approaches the woman and touches her on the arm. ‘Your voice,’ she says. ‘It’s so beautiful. I love your song.’

The woman straightens up and smiles. ‘Oh thank you. It’s my favourite.’

Evie continues her shopping up and down the other aisles and hears the woman singing louder. She notices a few other people have stopped to listen too. No more raised eyebrows.

She pays for her purchases at the check-out and  heads out the door, past the concrete blocks. Her heart sinks again. Ram raids? Oh my God! As she walks across the car park she remembers the expression on the woman’s face and the clarity of her voice as she sang. She wishes she’d asked her where the song was from.

She thinks of this as she drives back home over the motorway, past farms, factories, a school with children playing football outside, past other drivers going home or going to work. A plane flies overhead bringing people back into the country. Evie wonders where they’ve been. Another plane flies in the opposite direction, taking people away. She wonders where they’re going. The woman’s song fills the sad spaces in Evie’s heart. She wonders who this woman is. What kind of a life has she lived? What kind of life does she live now? Where did she learn to sing like that? What made her sing in the supermarket?


Sandra Arnold’s books include The Bones of the Story, Impspired Books, UK; Where the Wind Blows, Truth Serum Press, Australia; The Ash, the Well and the Bluebell, Mākaro Press, NZ; Soul Etchings, Retreat West Books, UK; Sing no Sad Songs, Canterbury University Press, NZ.  Her short fiction has been published internationally and received nominations for The Best Small Fictions, Best Microfictions and The Pushcart Prize. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from Central Queensland University, Australia.

Learn more at www.sandraarnold.co.nz.


(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)