and maybe he really had
towards the end—
but Victor took the jug cord
to the boys for years. For half a life he whirred
like a rowing machine. Barb said she heard
the grunts of effort between the strokes from her yard
across the creek; and that her bloke, Steady Brad,
as he was known before the brainbleed,
why that effing forklift driver couldn’t just unload,
until he clocked the ruckus was coming from inside
the mullet-stinking, guano-spattered
two or three abandoned
Holdens further up the No Through Road.
Noosa Shane—the only Shane I know who’s still loaded
now the boom has ended—
was skiing at Banksia Beach, when the semi-muffled
thuds that echoed
off the gazebo and along the promenade
spooked him, and he flooded
his flashy Suzuki four-stroke outboard.
Then there’s Carol, who sometimes sleeps in the hide
in the wetlands. She reckoned
some native bird
to the hurt in the wind
by clattering its own head
about the mud.
But Carol’s also had it hard.
Chook, Buddha, Wayne, Stink and Rod
and even when they did they talked
around it: Rod sailed closest when he recalled
Vic’s trawler in dry dock at Spinnaker Sound
that night a big fist of south, upward
of sixty knots, shunted
free from its chucks, and they found
the boat tilted
on its port side
in its cradle, with its outriggers totalled…
All agreed the eldest bore the brunt. Kind kid,
Jason. Before he could speak, he ferried
turtle hatchlings on a raft of cast-off chipboard,
bridging his back against a frigate bird—
but the knock-off crowd
at Bluey’s twelve years later barely blinked
up from their schooners when Vic cranked
up What a Wonderful World
on the jukebox and cracked
his firstborn square in the jaw with the dartboard.
He told me once that every time he flinched
his eyes would shut unwillingly, and a strange breed
of angel would appear, who power-lunged ahead
in him, like a nine-ironed cane toad
strumming the harp of its innards. He chaired
the rough proceedings; his instinct was to shield
the younger two, so he hogged
the conch for himself, refused to yield
his time on the floor. It barely worked.
The second lad
now lives in Chermside,
is twice divorced,
inseparable from his dogs, Sinbad
and Hector, and hardly ever wets the bed.
The youngest I know well. He tried
to watch his fucking mouth he went cross-eyed
as he shivered in the shed.
So Vic turned optometrist, measured
the spite of each sharp clip across the void
to reset the dials on the poor bastard.
His thick glasses make him look a bit weird,
but I’m proud
of my stepdad, who I call Dad,
who finally ended it, and who probably only ended
his brief church speech when he shared
all this with me later, long after he had belted
me blue for the last time. I was reminded
of it this weekend
when I saw him reach behind the bread
and casually plug the cord
into the wall socket, the way it was intended,
while he bubbled
up with pride
about the Broncos, who had
last on the ladder, and the hard water roiled.
Jaya Savige was born in Sydney, grew up on Bribie Island and lives and works in London. He is the author of Latecomers and Surface to Air. His next collection is forthcoming with UQP in 2020.