maurice and his white lady
Long before they scoured away the loose boulders and dangerous overhangs south of the old Boatshed at South Bondi there was a roomy cave available to the vagrant. This shallow cave faced north and it allowed both protection from the southerly gales and a comforting warmth from the winter sun.
Maurice wandered down from Bondi Road one day and claimed it as his home for a full season, sitting up there like a leather faced Buddha in his stone niche amongst his blankets and rags, day after day, twitching and shouting over his shoulder. We would file past him on weekends on our way to a session on the bogey-rope – and he never flinched from his manic observation of the horizon, despite our catcalls and tossed stones.
Small pebbles really, pitched up to him in the hope of more craziness. He was very obliging on that score; Maurice had a headfull of madmen jostling for predominance.
He would usually brew up his White Lady at dawn, mixing a fearsome combination of banana skins, half a pint of milk and a pint of methylated spirits; and we boys used to wonder at the tumultuous state of his mind after he had sucked back this poisonous brew; when the echo of his laughter rose above the roar of the surf.
Maurice would sometimes stand on his precipice and conduct the oncoming sea like a scarecrow Ashkenazy, this wind driven old soul with his faded eyes and forgotten years, who at times would greet us with great favour as we passed each other by on those few days when his mind was clear. Lounging up there at wealthy ease. Some said that the local women bought him food in the evening, and washed his clothes. Others on the road above heard him roaring out lines from The Tempest on those nights when the hard southerly gales swept ashore the coast.
He attempted to rise up from his stony bed one day and in his drunken trance fell off the ledge and landed on the unforgiving sandstone boulders that littered the base of his shallow scrape – A couple of ambulance officers were called and they stretchered him away.
Two days later the local council cleared away his belongings.
This is all that is left of him.