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flathead with shaved garlic and sprig of thyme

bike

Dennis, he’s my eldest brother, he would always ride the bike – I always had to do the running – and on the days he wanted to go all the way south to Old Mans I reckon I ran ten miles there and then ten miles back. Down beyond that curve there, just out of the picture.

I’m Steve, and that’s my board on top, the one with the fragged nose. We used to own the whole beach back when that pic was taken, except for the bit that the old man claimed. That was before the caravan park owner cleaned up the tea-tree forest and the council laid gravel tracks leading to the beach from the main road. Before the tourists and their 4WD’s came over, now there are tyre tracks all the way down to the south point. Sometimes they race eachother on the low tide. They are such fools.

It was a wild stretch of coast back then, eighty miles long and always offshore somewhere along its length. The spot just behind us in the photo was called Nearbye, then after that was Halfway, then the Old Man’s, and after that was the south point. Kids’ names, but we had to let mum know where we were headed in the morning.

The old man was a veteran of WW2 mum said, evacuated home to Australia out of Singapore after spending three years in Changi Goal. Friendly enough he was, not that he ever said much, and he was always fishing which wouldn’t have been too easy as he was missing a couple of fingers off each hand. Chopped right off at the knuckle.

Dad reckoned he was tortured. When he got home his wife had died and he ended up down here one day, probably walked from Sydney.

We could never figure out where he lived back of the beach, probably in a bark hut in behind the high dunes, sometimes we would see a thin trail of smoke coming up out of the bush behind the curve in the morning. Had to be him, cooking breakfast.

Whenever he had a few too many fish he would give us a few fillets to take home for mum to cook, Dennis would wrap them up in our towel and tie them onto the top of the boards for the trip home.

Flathead were best.

Mum would cook them fast in hot butter and just before they were ready she used to slice garlic real thin, take a sprig of lemon thyme, and drop them both into the pan and the hot butter for about half a minute. Then she would spoon the butter back over the fish.

steve

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