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the truant


stormWatch the schoolboy here as he roams the cold beachfront, a lonesome truant whose ambivalent love of the beach sometimes had him alone down here on winter days, when the gale driven southerlies swept the sand into low drifts against the promenade barrier and few walkers sought their comfort from the cold winds and driving sleet of a hard slung Tasman gale.

Here and there a single man wandered in some kind of lonely desperation, in and out of that empty arcade of chess players’ warrens wholly deserted for the season and home only for the broken bottle and calcified piles of pigeon shit.

How they roamed up to him did these fellows when their unpredicted veer bisected the boy’s solitary path and they, wordless and all but stinking with rejection and loss, looked at him hot, and wordless, like a lover.

Further up the North Bondi Surf Club had its doors locked open to the salty blow and inside the empty main cavern the slow clack of felted ivory signaled the relaxed demeanor of a boy who would rather be alone in this cold and empty blowing place than at his school desk.

Playing own billiards on a ragged green, oblivious to any approaching tread, coldly angry for no reason.

And outside the sea beat its relentless march to the shore and sand whispered into the rooms like the quiet dead dust of creation.
Lastly north was the vacant and yellow tomb of the Bondi Boys Club; one of the earliest buildings erected in the far north corner of the beach, with its twin turrets and desperate Anglicism. You may find a picture of old Bondi on one of the empty walls of some bankrupt development off Campbell Parade these days, and see there, in the indistinct distance, the building sitting in temporary governance of that small peak that, even now, rarely breaks with any enthusiasm.

The deserted building sat squarely above the wading pool in this year 1963, lost to rot and neglect. Its meagre windows long blinded by masonite, the doors bolted and wedged and tightened against discomposure.

A small broken window above the kitchen door at the back of the building was enough for us to gain entry to this mausoleum of Colonial Hope. The blackboard that hung on a wall above the serving hatch distinguished between Joseph Crampton’s first and Neil Jones runner-up, and beneath this forgotten witness of forgotten accomplishment a crusted pile of dried human excreta provided a futile exclamation.

A couple of desks were stacked up against one wall, flap-top single seaters donated from a local school that had outgrown its furniture. A grey felt Fedora hat with a black satin band was crushed between the desks and the wall.

The wooden floor had rotted through in places, exposing the buildings’ sorry foundations, and amongst the brick piles and termite bitten timbers lay a small woman’s purse, empty but for two pennies, and a rag of lace handkerchief.

A switchblade knife locked open with rust lay half buried there, alongside a labourer’s thrown trowel. Tradesmen long gone.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. You are so good at capturing split-second, glancing interactions between strangers. You also have a real gift for describing interiors, or rather the feelings they evoke and the ghosts that inhabit them.

    September 26, 2011

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