A new year’s reflection …
“One must forgive the young their foolishness, for without them, there would not seem so much wisdom in old age” (Socrates).
Ah! … Friday nights, didn’t we look forward to them. But we were young and carefree in those days. A group of us young bucks would meet after work at the Seacliff Hotel on Fridays and imbibe of the amber fluid and see what came of the evening. We were mostly working lads, so our thirsts were dry and encouraging.
I happened to be the first there that night, so I’d only taken my first drought of beer and settled back one-arm-on-the-bar surveying the scene, when in walks Mark. Mark was a big stocky fellow then, before the years and a beer-gut increased accordingly.
“Another schooner please, Noela.” I said to the barmaid before Mark reached me.
“G’day, Mark. How’s the land lie?” I greeted him.
‘Hrmph! Not much better than yesterday … ta, Noela.”
“Why the long face? Say … I heard you bought yourself a car!”
“HAD, you mean … past tense … an’ I only had it three days!”
“Righto then,” I turned and put both my forearms on the bar-top …. ”out with it … what’s the dirt?”
“Bloody Mick!” Mark spat the words out.
“More!” I demanded.
“Last night we were in here having a drink,” he started … (I motioned to Noela for a beer for myself and nudged the coins on the bar and gave her the wink and a sign to keep refilling them). ”You know then that car I got from one of Mick’s mates who was going back to Sydney or somewhere and it had a “yellow canary” on it for bald back tyres? Well, Mick suggested I buy the car ’cause I could get it for a song.” Mark paused for a drink and a sigh, then continued …
”But I haven’t even got a licence … I said to him … ’You’ll get one one day,’ said Mick ‘and until then I can drive you around, since I don’t have a car.’ Mark rolled his eyes … “Say! Have you heard about Mick’s car?”
“I have not” I replied.
“Ah! … it’s another story. I’ll tell you later … he smashed it anyhow … again!” Mark waved his hand as if to erase the thought from his mind.
“Well,” he continued “I’d had enough beer by then to be a little bit foolish, so between one thing and another, I bought the car … ‘64 Falcon … green … I think!”
Mark sighed and plonked his hand down on a packet of smokes which he flung the lid off in an angry gesture and lit one up ecstatically.
“A man’s a fool!” he philosophised.
“Well, we were in here last night, me, Mick and Jim … You know Jim … the bullshit-artist? Yeah, that’s him! Me and Jim and Mick, just where we’re sitting now … and the car’s there outside the window in the street and I was feeling a little proud, I admit it, I’d never owned a car before, you see?”
“Anyway … (yes thanks, Noela) … we’re sitting here an’ Mick leans over to Jim and me and whispers like it was a national secret: ‘I know where I can get a good “deal” tonight’ ”
“Oh yeah!” I said “Where; The Brighton?”
“Yeah … good heads … good price too!” Mick was keen. Suddenly, there was “Brain’s” face hanging over my shoulder..”How much?” Brain asks.
I tell you, if there’s even a sniff of dope within half a mile of Brain, he’s on to it. And God! Doesn’t it look like he’s full of it! If it can be smoked, drank chewed or injected … but then I ‘spose that’s why he’s called “Brain” … Oh God! … His eyes!”
“How much?” Brain repeats himself. He’s standing there trembling like a distempered dog … anyway, between the long and short of it, we scrape our money together … I lent Brain his share … and we send Mick to buy a bag.”
“He gets back about an hour later lookin’ like he’s smoked half of it away. He gave us the nod from the door and we all finished our beers and went out to the car. He showed us the “deal”.
“And the rest, Mick!” Jim said. He knew Mick like he knows himself, eh? After a good deal of threatening from us he handed over some more he’d kept ‘ for commission’ he said.”
“Well, we decided to got up to the lighthouse and have a couple of joints. Mick’s driving like he usually does, so he does a few ‘ring-a-rounds’ on the grass and we park and smoke away. When we decided to go, Mick does another bunch of 360s just to make an idiot of himself and then goes and slides the car into a ditch on the slope and gets stuck … of course, you know Mick; plants his foot till smoke’s pouring off the tyres!”
” ‘Hold on dickhead!’ I shouted, ‘we’re not going anywhere like this … we’ll have to get out and push’ … we were standing at the boot, all off our faces as it was … ’No, Mick … YOU … stay in the car and steer … OK? Yeah, right ‘ ”
Well, there we were, an the stars were shinin’ … shinin’ an’ the lighthouse light is goin’ blink … blink … FLASH! … jeez, y’know..it was a beautiful night … so it took us a little while to notice the grass had caught on fire under the car..probably off the muffler up it went! WHOOSH!
’Mick, Mick,’ we yelled (shoulda’ kept our mouths shut!) an he got out just in time.
Man … we were panicking. Brain was freaking out, he just stood there moaning, ‘Oh man, oh man’ … and staring.”
“I’ ll go to a house’, I shouted, ‘and call the fire brigade’.
I tell you I went to four houses over the other side of that gully before someone would listen to me. I don’t blame them on reflection, I dunno what I was sayin’ … and the people in the forth house could see the problem without me babbling a word. He just looked over my shoulder and the grass on the whole side of the hill was on fire. I heard the sirens then and it was all over bar the shouting. When I got back to the fenceline, Jim, Mick and Brain were standing there silhouetted against the flames. Jim went into bullshit mode and started to detail about how it reminded him of “when he used to burn the sugar-cane crops up in Bundaberg” … I told him to ‘shuddup, Jim … just shuddup!’
“Well, that was last night. This morning, I wasn’t feeling too good, but around comes Mick to pick up me an’ Jim an’ we drive up to the lighthouse to see the damage. The car’s a write-off, gutted except the rear-end and the boot … you know those new tyres I put on to get the coppers to wipe off the “yellow canary”? … Well, someone stole both wheels … must’av been the only thing on the whole car worth saving … and to add insult to injury, I’m standing there, really depressed an’ thinkin’; ‘ well … at least I owned a car for three days! ‘ … suddenly Mick makes this gasping sound, like a sharp intake of breath, leaps to the passenger-side door, throws it open and flips open what remained of the glovebox.”
“Oh SHIT!” Mick cried painfully … ”There was a whole “deal” in that glovebox!”
“Man … I coulda’ wept. ”Mark shook his head disbelievingly. His hand plopped down again on his smokes.
“Two pints this time thanks, Noela”. He sighed.