the house at the top of the pass. mrs brown
The 11 am whistle was the sign of a day half-done for most, and a full day over for the shift workers, who gathered in the empty lockerooms to shed themselves of befouled clothing and gather up their towels and soap and walk tiredly naked into the showers, ready for the soothing passage of hot water over their weary bodies.
Later they would travel into town to take a few drinks in the Great Northern, a ritual, and then to home and the wary disappointment of a shiftworkers’s family who have long learnt to tread lightly around the house in the afternoon’s light.
The younger man though had disappeared to the bike racks well before the whistle had ceased its blare, and barefoot and unchanged he was soon blistering down the road toward town, tearing into the hot westerly that had been building all morning, churning the pedals through the quiet town streets to the rail-crossing then winding through a blind left at the boarding house until, at last, he rode down onto the hard sand at Main Beach.
The sea a flawless eastern corduroy here under the hot offshore winds, rearing up in a straight and powerful line for the length of the beach before collapsing in a long clear curtain of falling water, time and time again. An empty stretch of hot sand that curved up towards the pass a mile away.
Arse up off the seat now for the one thousand hard pushes to get to the curve, over sweeps of fast hard sand and through sunken mires of the tidal pools, past the cottages at Clarks where a window or two blinked through the wild rampart of bougainvillea that had crept over their roofs and turned them into overgrown mounds. Flat out now by the Pandanus cove and watching the once in ten year pour of waves so uniformly perfect as they cascaded down the sand spit from the Pass, each one with its own growling hollow and every one of them following the exact line of the empty wave that preceded it.
He rides the old bike into the safe keeping of the lower tea-tree branches at the bottom of the boat ramp and as it topples over he sprints up the steep gravel road to Mrs. Brown’s tidy home up on the Lighthouse road, where he rents a room and keeps his boards.
Mrs. Brown is home, and is watering her roses in the windless heat up there.
The widow Brown alone in her garden.
And a barefoot youth runs up at her from the road, he is wild eyed and blowing from some massive exertion, his t-shirt is crimson with dried blood, and his arms are freckled with gore and in his dreadful haste he is suddenly up in the garden and upon her.
And she smiles as he rushes past on his way into the house; just the boy home from his dreadful work, and she continues watering for the minute it or two it takes for him to emerge and rush back down the way he came, this time he is carrying his board and his haste is both comic and seemingly apoplectic.
Later she will make up a pot of red chicken curry and rice for his dinner, and that nice young girl from town has rung to say she is coming around with a cake she has baked.
A week earlier Mrs. Brown had let herself into his rooms to assure herself that nothing was amiss, as was the way with surfers and landlords of the time, and she was astounded to find a mature and fresh caught Yellow fin Tuna slowly expiring on the floor of the shower; and being a woman of rare circumspection she resisted asking him for an explanation when he returned home that evening, though, knowing his nature, she did expect a generous share of the catch.