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the loading gang

the line

Franco slid them out of the rooms ten at a time, all of them hung on a greased running rail that led from the coldroom to the railway dock where the freezer car waited. Half sides of beef hung by their Achilles tendons, all of them chilled solid and quality stamped, ready for the Brisbane meat markets.

Three hundred pounds in weight, each. One thousand half carcasses to the truck, three trucks to the line. Three hours for the load to be done. A lifting game of heavy weights and balance and dogged perseverance. Two tally clerks stand around in their fresh whites, clipboarded up, and knowledgeable enough to dodge out of the way of a swinging side of beef deliberately mishandled. Poxy little fuckers with their clean fingers and leather shoes, and not a drinker amongst them.

Myth has it that Archie, Head Ganger twenty years ago, deliberately knocked over one of these office maggots with an open side of beef and the exposed rib bones sliced away half of his face.

They came out of the bar door and onto the street and took him there by his shirt, him just passing by the hotel on his way home from the shed, a long walk to the Pass, and they hoisted him over the hotel step and through the public bar doors and inside the building where a dozen or so men from the killing shed were drinking hard after their pre-dawn shifts and who all stopped to see what distraction this particular commotion might produce.

They pushed him up sharp up against the bar-rail and demanded that he stay with them, and drink with them until they had all had drunk enough, and then join them for a counter lunch of beef and gravy and potatoes, and then drink on into the afternoon until weariness won over from thirst, and during the hours this all took they asked him from where he had come from, and to where he hoped to go to, and why he was here.

This surfing nonsense.

They clapped him on his bloodied shoulders and rubbed his long salty hair, they gathered around him all day and swept him up and included him as one of them, this Sydney boy, this gangman.

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