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gary and the perfumed girl with a coin

The Bower – Manly

The wall of Humphries Newsagency in the Corso catches all the autumn sunshine from midday to three.

Warm there it is with your back to the bricks and the with best passing trade on the strip a man down on his luck can hope for some spare change on his blanket most days. Even the small change, or the foreign coins tossed down like waste.

Gary squats behind his rag picking off underarm vermin, scarping clear a clogged nostril, scrutching away at the itch of his shedding hair. Sometimes he ceases his endless nit-picking and gazes about himself as if he had just awoken and is lost in a toothless champing idiocy as his hopeless predicament brains him one more time.

Easter tourists roll by five deep, all unseeing.

Gary sits spraddle hipped, loosened after ten years of being an Islander’s boy – sought out while he was in remand and still pretty  – followed into Long Bay – handed over, gifted, bequeathed.

His arms are faintly muscled and scratched up with prison tattoes – and he watches with bleary old eyes as a perfumed girl stops to stare at him. Stare down at him.

She reaches into her purse and mines it for a spare coin. Her  fingers rustle past the bundle of notes jammed in there.

Gary pulls himself up and shivers, expectant.

She fills her short skirt with health and hurry and she fiddles and fiddles with her coins and notes. Gary sits up shakingly erect and his black-toothed smile would scare off a Corso rat.

A coin .. she finds a coin and she drops the spare metal onto his rag. Then she walks away from it. From him.

Two men sit on a Corso  seat watching Gary the bum. They too are enjoying the sun’s warmth.

Watching who walks past and who stops and who stops to give.

Fat men waiting for lunch. Staring men. Lucky men.

Men without sons.

Gary has settled back into his beggar’s slump, just another lost soul collecting dust on his shoulders –

– and is startled when a passer-by comes up and kneels by his side and grasps his unclean hand and holds it and places a folded note within it and then says something quietly to him before  he raises himself up and disappears back into the crowds.

Gary Keynes, junior regional champ Ulladulla Boardriders 1965.

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for josh, for oldtimes sake.

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