the modelling job
His Freshie mates used to call him Grange.
He was a mixture of many races, part Indo, some French, the rest untraceable like so many of us. Slender and dark was this boy, teeth all smilingly ivory. Easy to look at was Grange, and he was a good listener; a nice lad to have around a house with teenage daughters.
He moved around the rooms like a relaxed cat when he visited, making the girls laugh, switching his music for theirs, charming their mother – Sometimes he would come into the study where I was writing and sit on the floor by the speakers and listen to whatever was playing, even a Philip Glass metronome. He pretended to like Chick Corea and would ask for some Miles from time to time, and it was always Bitches Brew .
He would talk on about books and music and tell me what little he knew about riding waves; he was just another young bloke around the place. Everybody got the same from him, nothing held back.
Grange scored a modelling job not long after he left school. No surprise the way he looked. You know the old portfolio routine, the club calls; the studio shots, ad hopefuls. Touting a bag of pics around the city, meeting the animals.
Photographers wanting their money up front, magazine interviews, toothy pics in the Sunday paper socials.
All the hollow promises, all the desperate jostling for exposure.
Then came the five page contracts, printed small, and usually tabled in some darkened nightclub. Later came the introductions to some older men. The owners. The fixers.
Invitations to Palm Beach came his way, long weekend out of town parties where the girls left early and the best dope arrived late.
Grange lost his way one night up there, just the once. Had his trust mortally betrayed.
Two weeks before he died Grange got out of his hospital bed and came to my grandson’s third birthday party at Whale Beach. He was wearing clothes that didn’t fit, his scalp was scalded clear of hair and his once beautiful skin was ancient, yellow and dry, and all around him was the lonely aura of death.
He held onto things just to stand still.
All the photos I have of Grange that day have him smiling and propped up there stick-like in the middle of his old friends, kids everywhere around him – his death’s head grimace unnoticed, his emaciation ignored. His imminent end unspoken. Just another birthday crew in the shade of Whaleys’ Norfolk Pines.
About three hundred people came to his funeral, many of them youngsters who had been to school with my girls and who wept for this boy they never really knew with a sadness I now understand.
He was a good young bloke to have around the place.