the holiday van, tabourie: fresh bream with basil leaves
The holiday caravan sits well back from the main park, far away from the holidaying kids and their shrill racket, far from their boozing parents, the communal firepits, the toilet queues and mossy shower stalls.
His old place sits up there alone now amongst the dripping shadows of the old paperbark forest, lumped up immovably on brick footings, hard found at the long end of a narrow wet trailway that winds up two hundred metres from the park and into the rainforest gloom.
The old van is discoloured with rust and the two-step that leads to the door is long collapsed to an age of damp and decay, all the windows are closed, there is a stink of sewerage about and the old man who comes to the knock on the door is wild haired and wary.
He grunts some sort of recognition but rather than go into his hovel you indicate that the fresh snapper you have bought for dinner might be better cooked on a few coals outside. There are a few large stones out there that may once have been a fireplace and soon you have banked up a reasonable fire with the fallen timber lying around the site.
The old man just stands at the van doorway, watching out, blinking at the fire glare. He holds a rum bottle close, and drinks from it steadily as the flames burn down to coals.
From time to time he watches the boy at the fire, and wonders at his atonement, for his own soul has been long abandoned to hope.
Away to the east a good-sized sea rumbles onto Crampton Island, an easterly swell, probably lighting up The Hook and Pumphouse.
There is no power up here but the sombre forest whispers a vesper of sorts as we sat on bricks and talked of that night at the Marlin Hotel.
They had been drinking all day that day and he had sent her over to the bottle shop for a few bottles to take home, and the long bump under the back wheel outside the drive-in bottle shop as he backed in was too soft to be a ramp, then some damned woman on the other side of the road was screaming and now everybody was running over to the car.
There was a little basil growing wild from the old garden they kept, in better days, and we tore a few leaves up and spread it onto the cooked fish. He found some pepper in the van and when all was done with the cooking we just sat there eating, me and the old man, a little like old times, when mum was alive.