Tuesday, July 10, 2007


The sun has already set as i pull into the Junction. The sky to the east has turned eggshell blue, graduating down through orange and red to indigo at the horizon. Still just enough light to get the photo i need for the paper. I drive to the police station, photograph it from a low angle, through the wire gate. Work done, i go to the pub.

The pub is old, and pretty small. The usual bush paraphernalia stuck to corrugated tin walls. TV, raucous in the corner, Eagles battling Lions.

There is something quite zoological about sport.

A few blokes stand about with stubbies and yell at the TV. Behind the bar, an enormous beer gut curves upwards, clearly graphing the publican's beer consumption over the past few years.

I walk up to the bar. A few blokes turn to stare at me. In my Hawaiian shirt. Purple jacket. Glasses.

Faggot, one of them says into his beer.

Yeah what can i get yer, grumbles the publican. He takes a swig from his stubby, and wipes the back of his hand across his bearded face.
I count out my coins. Three dollars forty.
How much is a beer? i ask.
Four fifty.
You got an ATM here?
A wot.
Like, a teller machine?
He grunts, and motions me to follow him into the adjacent petrol station. He runs my card through the eftpos. I ask for twenty dollars. A couple of my newspapers are sitting on the counter. The headline reads "Gascoyne to get lots ... and lots". A story about new land releases in Carnarvon and Exmouth. What a stupid headline, i think to myself. Who writes this rubbish.

Well, i say.
Yer that journalist from the Guardian, aren't you, the publican says.
I stare at the paper, and its stupid headline. Yes i am, i say with a sigh.
He pulls out his wallet.
Look, i don't often do this, he says. Looking around to make sure no-one is watching, he pulls out a twenty, and presses it into my hand. Here, get yerself a beer. He looks around furtively, puts his wallet back, nods to me and leaves.

What a curious man, i think. I walk back around to the bar.

The blokes are screaming at the TV.
Fuckin kick it! yells a man in a beanie. Fuckin kick it! That's what it's designed for, dickhead!
He wears a blue and yellow shirt with Rio Tinto embroidered above the breast pocket.
Fuckin kick it, says the man next to him.
The publican is back behind the bar.
Now, what can i get yer, he grumbles through his beard.
I'll have a beer thanks.
He drags out a stubby, pops the lid, presses it into a foam stubby holder, and thrusts it across the bar. I pay him. With his own money.
Oh, come on! That's gotta be a free! yells Mr Tinto.
I look up, startled. He is pointing in the direction of the TV. He is fairly drunk. He turns to the man on the stool next to him. The man nods.
Gotta be a free, he agrees.
Mr Tinto turns back to the screen. Christ! Pick it fuckin up! Pick it up, yer fuckin tool! Playing like a fuckin bunch of fuckin pansies!
Bunch of fuckin pansies, says the bloke next to him, taking a swig of his beer.
Suddenly someone kicks a goal.
Yeah! yells Mr Tinto. Fuckin yeah!
He raises a drunken arm to high-five the man next to him. He misses, and smacks the man right in the face.
Yeah! says the man.

A skinny, pale couple walk into the bar. The bar falls silent. The half dozen blokes, and the publican, turn to stare at them. The man has elasticized loops sticking out of his pants at the cuffs and pockets, and wears a backpack. The pants have a zip just below the knee, which turns them into shorts. Tricky dacks. His wife wears a similar pair of pants. They both have small, oval-shaped, rimless glasses.

They converse quietly in Dutch, reading the chalkboard menu above the bar. It alleges that food can be bought on the premises. You'll be lucky, i think to myself.

The publican heaves his massive bulk in front of them, hands on the bar.
What can i get yer, he grumbles.
The Dutchman orders two steak and chips, in faltering English. I look up at the blackboard. That will set them back sixty dollars.

You might have a bit of a wait, says the publican.
Excuse me?
The publican makes a great show of looking heavenward, then leans forward.
You ... might ... have ... a ... bit ... of ... a ... wait, he says loudly.
He marks out long intervals with his hand along the bar.
It ... might ... take ... some ... time, he shouts.
Oh, says the Dutchman. We don't mind.
Christ, says the publican, looking around the bar in mute appeal, as if wondering what he has done to deserve customers who walk in asking for food.
Fuckin drongos! shouts Mr Tinto. Play on! What you fuckin standing around for?
I presume he is shouting at the TV, although it is not entirely clear.
Fuckin drongos, says the man next to him.

The publican leans on the corrugated iron wall and shouts out through the back door. Get some chips out the freezer! An two steaks!
He takes a swig from his stubby and turns to me.
You right?

Who says you can't get quality service in this country these days.

Fifty k's out, i take a random back track, drive a while before finding a turnoff, a gully really, and stop by a shallow creek. I kill the lights and step out. A whole galaxy peels away above me into inky blackness. The stars. The infinite vastness of it all. It makes me feel small and insignificant. I stare upwards into it, until i get sick of feeling small and insignificant. I get enough of that dealing with my bank.

I switch the headlights back on and collect some wood. There appears to be no kindling. All the spinifex and bush is green. I find something in the glovebox that says "Datsun Sunny: Owners Manual".

I would hate to be caught with any evidence that i ever owned a Datsun Sunny. I use it to light the fire.

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