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lonely young bones

Prison Shank

Slab arrived unannounced from his five acres of jungle at Hat Head last month and moved into the old Kombie that hasn’t been shifted since one of my kids parked it behind the pink azalea when she got back from Iran twelve months ago.

He’s at my door, that shaggy old head. Hungry. Alone. This old friend.

He’s fifty years older now and beaten up by the booze, he’s coarsened, shaky. That unshakeable big old bastard has gone forever. Now we have this littler man, if there is there such a word.

He says he might stay a week or two, says he’s looking for a few old mates from the past and with a little fortune his ex-wife may still be holding up the bar at the Newy Arms on thursday nights. Now there’s a fat chance.

But what he’s really hoping for is that if he picks enough arguments down there he may bump into someone who knows where his only son has washed up. Young Bevan. Beaver. I was his Godfather – I am his Godfather.

Beaver tossed his family at twelve for a stolen car aimed at Brisbane with a few mates and after a two-year university education at Boggo Road courtesy of the love of fast cars and other people’s money he exited Queensland for the south in order to rip a a bit of the gloss off Sydney before old age stepped in.

His lessons in jail learnt well. The infernal ripping tear of flesh, first his manhood gone, then his knives as repair.

The lad spent three weeks with us on the way through to the big smoke back then and he read every book written by Kipling that I own, he had mum cook pasta for him every other night and we watched a lot of of Tom Curren movies in slow motion in the study. The bookroom.

He showed me how to make a proper ding mix for the two Dooleys that I owned and he belted me for not keeping them clean and he racked them up high in the garage rafters and away from the dogs. If I had a will I’d leave them to the young bloke because he took a bit of an issue with them you see – the way he looked at them, looked after them.

Ran his hard hand down their soft rails.

Then he built us a new bookshelf in the study for those books he liked and when the grandsons came around on Wednesdays he would lay out on the lawn with them, face up, and he taught them how to read clouds. Prison yards don’t have roofs he would say to me, there was always something to learn. Cirrus, cirrocumulus, cirrostratus, altocumulus.

Nobody was surprised when he disappeared and left a hundred dollars in Mum’s cookbook –  page 139 – spaghetti marinara. She would pretend to be cranky when he hung around the cookpot, always in the way. We never had sons.

Slab and I go back to 1963 –

He is serious about finding his boy this time and says as long as he can keep away from the rum and barmaids he might stand a chance of getting his lad back up the coast where things are a little quieter. He’d heard a few things about Beaver.

Another shot at it he says, he’s me only boy. Never too late.

Slab is sixty four now and doesn’t mind sleeping with the spiders in the old van, tough old bastard that he is.

He’s been here week or so now and on Thursday we will be taking him to see the grave where we settled his only boy amongst the carnations and generations buried at the North Shore Crematorium. Two years in the ground now.

Beaver died of a million things before they found his lonely young bones on a mattress in a Darlo flop that lonely Christmas eve.

– and I get to tell his dad tomorrow on the way in.

Surf’s up they say.

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Davo's Liver #

    Surf’s always up somewhere Pete. Easy to read, just like the clouds. If you have the time.

    I saw a kid yesterday checking the surf, pulled his tee shirt up over his head so the rain would’t douse the joint he was smoking. Burned a big hole in the tee shirt. Not much hope for the present generation. The older generation, they’re dropping like dead bugs. Many of them from a broken heart.

    June 20, 2011
  2. We have a few of the old boys up here davo, they traded the early morning surf for an early morning number thirty years ago – the rattle and wheeze of emphysema is called the eureka bird-call, that and the crash of beer bottles into a dumpster.

    June 21, 2011
  3. that was such a powerful read. 🙂

    June 21, 2011
  4. And yet, so often, happiness and optimism are ridiculed as ignorant or silly. But they’re not. They’re just another choice, another approach to the same problems, challenges and struggles…

    June 21, 2011
  5. I dunno Bec, everytime I sucked down a number all the optimism was replaced by paranoia – and I could never surf for shite on it either

    June 22, 2011
  6. Agreed

    June 23, 2011
  7. Steve Shearer #

    Anyone who can read that and still have a dry eye doesn’t deserve their place in the human race.

    I went straight out and kissed me fine, bonnie boyo.

    What a treasure to realise how easily the most precious things can be lost.

    June 24, 2011
  8. RS #

    Damn Pete. Heavy story. Thanks for sharing your words. You have a unique way of telling stories and many of us really enjoy your work. Thanks.

    June 24, 2011
  9. we never had it that rough as kids rh, they have all the barrels pointed at them these days – and keep that young fella tight steve – for as long as he will let you

    June 24, 2011
  10. Mike #

    Wow PB, the tragedy is that minor choices become major directional changes as the degree shift plays out.

    Sometimes that path generates a momentum one can’t stop as the road ends.

    June 25, 2011
  11. I’ve read this several times now; it’s so beautifully restrained, if you see what I mean, while saying so much. I get to the end and start reading it from the beginning again.

    June 29, 2011
  12. Heartbreaking and graceful, you did this story a great service.

    August 6, 2011
  13. he was a bit of a lad was slab – in the day

    August 6, 2011
  14. Thanks Pete and as Steve S, said ………

    February 18, 2013

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